OPEN INSULIN PROJECT
A PHYSICAL KIT, DIGITAL PLATFORM AND SUPPORTING SERVICE MAKE UP THE OPEN INSULIN PROJECT WHICH AIMS TO ENABLE ANYONE TO MAKE AFFORDABLE, SAFE AND EFFECTIVE INSULIN FROM THEIR HOME.
THE (PROBLEM) SPACE OF INSULIN
In 1923, the patent for insulin was sold for $1. Yet, nearly a century later, the “lack of access to affordable insulin remains a key impediment to successful treatment and results in needless complications and premature deaths” [WHO 2018 REPORT ON DIABETES].
In the USA, 99% of the insulin market is dominated by three pharmaceutical giants that employ evergreening1 to patent protect their pricing while not significantly improving the effect of their medicine 2. There are few affordable alternatives.
The cost of insulin is felt by people of all social economic levels. The most economically disadvantaged take risk-prone measures to cope with the cost. Some ignore their diabetes maintenance, others ration their insulin supplies – these measures can have serious short and long term health consequences.
HOW THIS WORKS
THE DIGITAL PLATFORM
>> A guide and gatekeeper to the physical kit
The sensors on the physical kit keep the app informed of the status of the insulin culture. Through this digital portal, the brewer is walked through step-by-step instructions on how to brew insulin at home. All user actions on the physical kit must be performed through the app. If any actions are misperformed or culture conditions go out-of-bounds, the digital app will shut off access to the culture, walk the user through requesting insulin subsidizations and safely disposing of their brew.
THE PHYSICAL KIT
>> All components included, Some assembly required
To design the components, I conducted a laboratory visit and a technical interview with a pharmaceutical industry expert to understand the specific requirements of a small scale manufacturing kit. At scale mocks were made for the exhibition to demonstrate the size and feel of the full kit at home.
OUTCOMES & FUTURE STEPS
The Open Insulin Project is currently ongoing. These artifacts constitutes my design thesis at CIID as well as my contribution to the interdisciplinary work of the Open Insulin Project Team in Oakland, CA as of December 2018. You can find continual updates on the state of the project here or at Open Insulin Project Website
>> Where we are today
1. “Incremental innovation has repeatedly precluded the formation of a generic insulin industry in North American when earlier patents expired… Pharmaceutical-industry analysts have described a repatenting tactic called evergreening, in which a series of related patents – often on metabolites or optical isomers – extend the life of the product after the initial patent expiration.” – Jeremy A. Greene, M.D., Ph.D. (Why Is There No Generic Insulin? Historical Origins of a Modern Problem, 2015)
2. “While the major cost drivers are hospital and outpatient care, a contributing factor is the rise in cost for analogue insulins which are increasingly prescribed despite little evidence that they provide significant advantages over cheaper insulins” – World Health Organization (Global Report on Diabetes, 2016)
3. “Sterile technique is a set of specific practices and procedures performed to make equipment and areas free from all microorganisms and to maintain that sterility” – BC Centre for Disease Control (Clinical Procedures for Safer Patient Care, 2010).