The Open Insuline project. They seek to lower the cost of diabetes treatment

The Open Insuline project
The project open insulin seeks to apply open source principles to hormone development which is part of the treatment. In case of being successful the cost could be drastically reduced for patients.

Diabetes is a disease that causes blood sugar (glucose) levels to be higher than normal. In normal people this level is controls a hormone called insulin.

The cost of treatment

In case of not making enough insulin, a person can experience a high level of sugar in the blood or hyperglycemia. Long-term hyperglycemia It can cause heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and nerve damage. In the worst case scenario ketoacidosis occurs, the liver releases too many ketones into the blood, making it acidic and can lead to death.

For some types of diabetes, andTreatment consists of supplying insulin produced in laboratories. Some countries provide it to patients free of charge, while in others they must pay for it out of pocket.

To have a dimension of cost of artificial insulin, let's say that of the $ 327.000 billion a year in disease care spending, $ 15000 billion was taken away insulin. 4,60%

In that country insulin tripled in price from 2002 to 2013 and doubled again between 2012 and 2016. In 1996, a bottle of a certain brand cost $ 21. Today, the list price is $ 324, an increase of more than 1.400%.

Although the production of insulin itself does not have valid patents, if they have them the manufacturing procedures. Pharmaceutical companies are constantly changing them to keep them current. In their defense they allege that what they sell are synthetic analogues that have been adjusted to last longer or act faster,

The Open Insuline project

Anthony Di Franco, a computer scientist with type 1 diabetes,  founded the group behind the project in 2015. He did so when, temporarily without health coverage, he had to pay for his insulin out of pocket.

He and his collaborators think that One solution to the price crisis is to allow patients and hospitals to create insulin themselves.

One of the members of the project, molecular biologist Thornton Thompson, explains it this way:

If we can do these things in our lab on a budget of $ 10.000 a year, there is no reason it should cost that much. One of the big goals of the project is just to show it.

The goal of Open Insulin is develop a way of making insulin that is patent-free and can be made available to the public. They started by raising $ 16.000 through a crowdfunding campaign in November 2015.

Scientists make insulin by inserting a gene that codes for the insulin protein into yeast or bacteria. These organisms become mini-factories and begin to spit out the protein, which can then be harvested, purified, and bottled.

Progress has been made in recent months. The French biochemist Yann Huon de Kermadec, in charge of the manufacturing process, managed to obtain the appropriate insulin gene and its insertion into the yeast DNA. This has produced small amounts of the protein insulin. Since the yields have been too low to purify, you are experimenting with different yeast colonies to see if production can be increased.

Once sufficient production is achieved, the purification procedure is completed and it is determined to be insulin, the founder of the project himself will act as a guinea pig.

The next thing they will have to define it is how insulin is made available to the public. If they wanted to produce and distribute it, they would have to obtain approval from the regulator. Instead, since the self-production of drugs is unregulated, the procedure is most likely distributed under some open source license so that it is available to hospitals and other patient groups.

However, this presents risks. Leaving manufacturing to non-professionals could produce insulin with serious quality problems.


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