Is an Endless Supply of Free, Home-Brewed Insulin in Your Future?


The co-founder of a San Francisco venture capital firm that funds biotech companies is dreaming big about type 1 diabetes-- imagining a day when the crippling monthly cost of insulin is a thing of the past because people with diabetes would be able to brew their own at home, like a craft beer.

Ryan Bethencourt of Indie.Bio is aiming his sights on making insulin not just more affordable for people with diabetes, but so easy to make that it's free, by crowdsourcing groups of so-called bio-hackers (people who run DIY biology labs at home looking to solve major problems) to begin tinkering with the idea.

"Insulin is the first medicine we're trying [bio-hacking] with," Bethencourt told National Public Radio's Miriam Tucker. "It is probably the largest need of any biologic drug I know of."

It's a wild and original approach to the global public health crisis of type 1 diabetes, and one that troubles many experts.

Bethencourt's desire to foster open-source insulin may strike some as a pure fantasy, but according to the expert to whom NPR reached out, it's hardly impossible.

"Practically, it can be done," Dr. Marcus Hompesch, president, CEO and a founder of the Profil Institute for Clinical Research told Tucker. "The technological hurdle isn't one that couldn't be overcome."

But he cautioned that that is hardly a reason to encourage something so potentially dangerous and harmful --- a warning Bethencourt seems prepared to ignore, at least for the time being.

Source: NPR


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