Open Insulin

One of my big themes is that open source will transform every industry, with key examples being WordPress in web publishing, WooCommerce in online commerce, Wikipedia in reference, and Bitcoin/Ethereum in finance. Medicine, though, has been relatively unscathed so far. Here’s a great video introducing the Open Insulin project, which for the past 6 years has been developing their own method of manufacturing insulin and is going to open source its process to the world for anyone to recreate.

It also reminds me of the What If? article in the Economist a few days ago about mRNA self-biohacking. Hat tip: Riaan Knoetze.

7 thoughts on “Open Insulin

  1. I fully approve of this. The situation with insulin has been untenable for a while now, and real people suffer from it.

    My sister was diagnosed with Type 1 at age 10 and has had numerous issues with availability and pricing, not to mention insurance.

    This is an essential thing for life to continue for many people, and it should not be controlled so poorly like it currently is. There are risks, but at some point, those are worth taking.

  2. These discussions almost always leave out the root cause of the high price of medicine.

    In the video, the scientist says insulin prices are high because “producers don’t really face competition.”

    Why don’t they face competition?

    Because the government made competing impossible!

    Many competent biochemists could invent a way to make safe insulin at a low cost. It’s certainly been done before.

    But the problem is that because of the way insulin (really, all medicine) is regulated, whatever they invent must go through rounds and rounds of government approvals which cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take many years.

    The incentives are all wrong.

    It’s easy to start a tech company. It’s nearly impossible to start a medical company.

    So how many smart people go into tech instead of medicine?

    Medical progress has been slowed to a crawl by these oppressively burdensome regulations.

    Sure, the regulations are for “your safety”, but meanwhile, millions of people are dying of diseases that would have already been cured if scientists and doctors were simply allowed to practice medicine free from the heavy hand of the government.

    Once people can safely make biological molecules at home with no oversight, all the regulations and red tape in the world won’t stop them, so hopefully the technology to do that becomes available sooner rather than later, and then we can say goodbye to the FDA.

    Best of luck to these scientists.

  3. This is incredible! I’m so happy to see that in a world overrun with “for-profit” agendas, the open source mentality has permeated medicine to address real problems!

  4. Waaaaay beyond awesome! I’ve been curious about open source relative to physical items ever since I stumbled upon The Open Source Saxophone Project a few years ago

    Your post triggered a quick Google search, which led me to this interesting post:

    There are some amazing open source saxophones on the market, most of which are Selmer MK 6 clones. Thanks to modern manufacturing techniques, the intonation is spot-on and the action is effortless. They are an absolute blast to play.

    Thanks for the motivation, Matt! Hope your horns are treating you well. 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing, Matt! I am diabetic – the thought that in some parts of this world people still have to die because they can’t afford the medication saddens me.

    The Open Insulin Project is a step in the right direction.