Oakland Biohackers Beat Funding Goal for Open Source Insulin Protocol

Isaac Smith | Oakland North | December 18, 2015

Wednesday evenings the hackers and biologists of Counter Culture Labs, a North Oakland “anarchist collective,” meet to work on a project aiming to create an open-source protocol for manufacturing a more accessible and affordable version of insulin, made by recombinant DNA, also known as genetic engineering. From day jobs at such powerhouse facilities as UC San Francisco, Amgen Inc., and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, they come to work on the project called Open Insulin. The project aims to accelerate development of a generic version of the lifesaving medicine while showing that citizen scientists and biohackers can contribute an alternative to methods now used by the for-profit pharmaceutical business model, says the group’s 33-year-old co-founder Anthony Di Franco of Berkeley.

Anthony DiFrancoDi Franco, a Yale-educated software developer, spends his days alternating between working with Wikipedia on open access, and in building financial technology for the startup Credibles, a prepaid food business funding enterprise. Open Insulin is a quest that merges both his scientific goals and personal health interests.

The team chose insulin because it is a complex molecule to synthesize. By setting the bar high they intend to show that community labs can produce quality research on issues of serious public health concern. In genetically-engineered medicines, a product is manufactured by inserting genes into cell cultures that then act as tiny factories.
Insulin is used to treat some forms of diabetes, a metabolic disease in which the body has difficulty turning sugar into energy...