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These Biohackers Are Working To Make Insulin 98% Cheaper

Diabetes is becoming more and more common by the day. As food manufacturers continue to put sugar into almost everything. Desserts are all the rage now. Bakeries keep coming up with new ideas but all of them involve sugar. Don’t forget soda drinks though. Over 35 million people in the US live with diabetes. It is the 7th leading cause of death in the country but the fear of death because of the condition is the least of a diabetic’s worries.

If you’re a Type 1 diabetic then this means that you’ll have to be dependent on insulin for the rest of your life. People diagnosed with the condition usually take two injections of insulin per day. That’s 14 injections in a week, almost 60 injections in a month. The injections are fairly easy to administer, however, the accumulated cost of insulin keeps hurting your finances every day. That’s where the Open Insulin Foundation comes into the picture. It’s an organization dedicated to providing an open-source, affordable model of insulin production.

According to founder, Anthony di Franco “When I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, it came as quite a surprise. As time went on, I became more aware that my life was actually hanging from a very thin thread”. This is something many type 1 diabetics can agree with. Their life depends on those two injections per day but what if they’re too expensive to buy? A lack of insulin can lead to severe cardiovascular damage, loss of weight, feeling of thirst, and frequent urination.

The Open Insulin Foundation is led by a group of volunteer scientists that are trying to reverse engineer insulin in a bid to find a cheaper way to make it. They aim to set up a patent-free platform for distribution, cutting down on injection costs significantly. According to the team’s predictions, they could reduce cost by a whopping 98%, around $5 to $15 for a vial. Anthony said that “Our work definitely aims [at] that situation where people can produce medicine without facing any competition”.

According to their website, these biohackers are aiming “to develop easy to manage, easy to repair, and affordable equipment to sustain local and community-built insulin production”. The current US insulin market is led by three big manufacturers partnered with various Pharmacy Benefit Managers or PBMs. According to a 2019 report from the US Senate Finance Committee, drug manufacturers are discouraged from setting lower prices for their products for fear that PBMs would be displeased about their slice of the cake getting smaller.

Open Insulin Foundation aims to go against this system, so make insulin available for everyone. Though they are still far away from their goal, the team is optimistic. According to Louise Lassale, communications manager “We are able to produce insulin in the wet lab. We are getting close to […] a protocol that could be used to actually produce insulin that is injectable”.