About This Project
A team of biohackers is developing the first open source protocol to produce insulin simply and economically. Our work may serve as a basis for generic production of this life-saving drug and provide a firmer foundation for continued research into improved versions of insulin.
Ask the ScientistsJoin The Discussion
What is the context of this research?
There are currently about 387 million people worldwide living with diabetes. Meanwhile, as discussed by Jeremy A. Greene and Kevin R. Riggs in their March 2015 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, there is no generic insulin available on the market despite great demand in poorer communities and regions of the world. As a result, many go without insulin and suffer complications including blindness, cardiovascular disease, amputations, nerve and kidney damage, and even death. Pharmaceutical companies patent small modifications to previous insulins while withdrawing those previous versions from the market to keep prices up. Additionally, research into improvements to insulin is encumbered by the subtle and difficult nature of the current standard protocols for insulin synthesis.
What is the significance of this project?
Availability of generic insulin is crucial in reducing suffering and death among society's most disadvantaged groups. According to the 2014 CDC report on diabetes, in 2012 the total cost of diabetes in America was $245 billion dollars. According to Diabetes in America, 2nd Edition by the US National Diabetes Data Group, Chapter 6, "The elderly, racial and ethnic minorities, and lower-income U.S. adults will likely require an increasing share of diabetes-related health care and preventive services. With a greater proportion of diabetic persons being older and poorer, the cost of these services will likely increase…"
Industrial protocols for insulin production don't support generic production. They're complex, decades-old, and often encumbered by patents. Ours will be simple and open.
What are the goals of the project?
$12,000 is needed to initiate Stage 1 of the project. In Stage 1, the team will insert an optimised DNA sequence for insulin into E. coli bacteria, induce the bacteria to express insulin precursors, and verify that human proinsulin has been produced. We are trying two different sequences to maximize results.
Money raised past this minimum will be used to establish the protocols for cutting and folding the proinsulin into its final, active insulin form, and develop purification methods sufficient for research and potential pharmaceutical use.
All protocols we develop and discoveries generated by our research will be freely available in the public domain. We will also be proactively investigating strategies to protect the open status of our work.
This project relies entirely on volunteer labor. The $6,000 will go toward equipment, consumables, and the cost of external facilities.
Any additional funds will go toward the next stage of the project, cutting and folding the proinsulin to produce the active form of insulin, and accelerating our progress by hiring commercial services to supplement our volunteer labor.
Extra $6,000: design, synthesize & test 2nd construct
Extra $13,000: part of the funds need to produce correctly folded, pure and active insulin. We plan to upgrade part of our lab to a Biosafety Level 2 facility (allows us to safely work with human cell lines). We will purchase human insulin and IGF-1 ELISA kits, cell-based insulin and IGF1R assays, and a spectrophotometer. These items will allow us to test that we have correctly created insulin and help us to monitor our cell concentrations.
The rough timeline and budget for the entire project is at https://experiment.com/u/AfKfog.
Meet the Team
We're a group of Bay Area biohackers who came together through the Counter Culture Labs and Biocurious communities and joined up with Arcturus when we realized new technology could bring simple, affordable insulin within our reach and we could go on to share it with the world.
Counter Culture Labs and Biocurious are a part of the burgeoning global DIYscience movement. We host lectures, hands-on classes, and demonstrations at the Omni Commons in Oakland for our community.
Anthony Di Franco
I've had type I diabetes since my early 20s, and have been interested in widely sharing the fruits of science and technology even longer. Now, I work at the intersections of complex adaptive systems, economics, and computing. I am a board member of Counter Culture Labs, where I teach and organize events on topics at the intersection of computation and biology, and where I look forward to starting work on open insulin.
Dr. Josiah Zayner is constantly pushing the boundaries of Science outside traditional environments. He started Biohacking during his Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics at the University of Chicago, creating The Chromochord in his apartment, the world’s first musical instrument that uses engineered protein nanotechnology. After his Ph.D., Josiah received a prestigious fellowship to work with NASA's Synthetic Biology program, engineering bacteria to help terraform Mars. Now he is the Founder and CEO of The ODIN, a company that is teaching people how to do genetic engineering at home. Besides starring in the Netflix documentary Unnatural Selection, his work has been featured in the New York Times, Time, Scientific American and NPR, among many others.
Scientific Co-Lead for Open Insulin.
M.S. in Biotechnology with B.S. in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology. I am excited to bring my deep experimental knowledge coupled with business acumen to contribute to this project. Diabetes runs in my family, so alleviating the high costs for patients living with this condition is what motivates me.
Passionate about Genetic Engineering and BioChemistry. Eager to bring biohacking into the mainstream.
Curiousity driven PhD scientist, system integrator and innovation enabler. Enjoys working to develop simple solutions to complex problems particularly those that lie at the interface of physics and biology.
I am a Biohacker enthusiast that has obtained a Certificate of Achievement at Berkeley City College in the Spring of 2012, contributed at the Maker Faire with Biocurious, and created an Android app to translate codons to their amino acids.
Excited to be a part of the grassroots biotech movement
I'm passionate about STEM and how we can build the future together! I've helped to co-found 4 biolabs within the last 3 years (Counter Culture Labs, Berkeley Biolabs, IndieBio and LAbLaunch) and looking forward to spreading the tools of biotechnology to everyone.
I'm also the Program Director for IndieBio, which is an early stage biotech accelerator, we help fund and build biotech's with passionate founders. If you want to build biotech, we'd love to invite you to apply sf.indiebio.co
CEO & Co-Founder of Arcturus BioCloud. System engineer, a serial entrepreneur, has been two times startup CEO. A former university professor at the Business and Engineering School, Universidad de Lima. Singularity University alumni (GSP14). Recipient of MIT Innovators Under 35 Awards (Peru). https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaimesotomayor
Andrés Ochoa (aka Don)
Public Speaker, Entrepreneur, Scientist and Biohacker
"When you feel that you should have been born in the future, the only option is to build the future, so you can finally get to where you belong". 04/2014.
Founder and Director at Syntechbio (Latin American Biohacker Spaces Network, Community of +2000 science lovers)
Cofounder and Chief Science Officer at Arcturus Biocloud.
He has being working with molecular biology for more than 10 years. His current goal is to use this knowledge to create technology to build a better world. He believes that biological engineering will lead the technological advances of the next 50 years. His purpose is to create knowledge and tools that will allow biology to shift from an observational stage to a design discipline.
Patrik D'haeseleer is a bioinformatician by day, mad scientist by night. He is a cofounder of Counter Culture Labs, and community projects coordinator at BioCurious, none of which are in any way related to or funded by his day job at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
I'm fascinated by science and how things work, and making things. I'm an analytical chemist interested in drug discovery and design and especially in how natural product chemistry ties into this. Currently I'm a masters student in pharmaceutical chemistry through the University of Florida.
Problem Solving Enthusiast
Tom saw the potential of modern biology after hearing about the human genome project. He's completed the "Introduction to Biology - The secret of Life" online class taught by Eric S. Lander at MIT, and continues to learn about the field.
Tom is a software engineer with 15+ years of experience, focusing on Python, C#, and SQL. Tom is working on automating common tasks in biotech labs using his background as a software engineer, machinist, and electronics hacker.
Tom earned his dual degree in Electrical Engineering and Mathematics from the University of Massachusetts, his MS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Colorado. He earned a full scholarship to Babson College, where he earned his MBA, Magna Cum Laudae.
I am a biohacker from the San Francisco Bay Area.
As a Board Member at BioCurious, I have organized events, classes and community projects for the past 4 years. I am also a Board Member of Real Vegan Cheese, an open source project to create a synthetic cheese from genetically modified yeast. I have recently become an adviser to the Latin American Network of Biohacker Spaces. I have been a leader on two iGEM teams in 2014 and 2015 and am a member of multiple community lab science projects.
My ambition is to continue to push open source science and for the creation of more biohacking spaces, democratizing science globally. The Open Insulin Project is important to me because it stretches the boundaries of a biohacking project and is useful to aid in diabetes research.
biohacker and tinkerer at counter culture labs
Isaac Yonemoto presents detailed information on insulin production and discusses the strategies we will be considering in this video of the discussion he led at Counter Culture Labs.
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