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Open Insulin Project: Biohackers Work on Cost-Effective Ways to Make Insulin

Skyrocketed insulin price has been literally killing millions of Americans with diabetes.

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As an answer to skyrocketing insulin prices in the United States, biohackers are creating a microbrewery for insulin. They are working on simpler, newer, and cost-effective ways to make insulin.

This Open Insulin Project is trying to build an open-course hardware system for making insulin in small batches. It includes a process that utilizes engineered yeast to create a modified proinsulin protein. It also used an enzyme to convert the modified proinsulin into insulin glargine.

The project has been organized under Counter Culture Labs.

Skyrocketed insulin price has been literally killing Americans with diabetes, while their cousin Canadians pay just 10% of what they are paying.

The process technology to produce insulin and other biopharmaceuticals should be straightforward to develop efficient production.

The biohackers said, “Initial estimates suggest that we can build a highly automated system that integrates a bioreactor, a purification and formulation system, and QA tests in a platform that would fit in the space of a large table or the corner of a room and cost from ten thousand to a few tens of thousands of dollars.”

They added, “It could have a capacity from a few tens to about a hundred liters of culture, and based on typical yields obtained in industry, one such system could produce enough insulin for a few tens to a hundred thousand people.”

This innovative project could make the supply chain safer by making it simpler to track, contain, recall and replace any bad batches that are produced, as Jenna Gallegos and Jean Peccoud of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Colorado State University noted in their recent piece on the Discover Magazine blogs. It seems that operating at a large-scale production is problematic, while small scale production helps with safety and economic perspectives. The idea of an open hardware platform recently received an enthusiastic reception at MIT’s Global Community Biosummit.

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