Safflower-derived human insulin is being studied by a Calgary, Alberta based biotech company SemBioSys Genetics who are using transgenic safflower plants to produce
human insulin. The biotech company claims to have produced commercial quantities of human insulin from genetically modified safflower plants, a move that could change the economics of the diabetes market
“We believe that when we’re successful, people in the developing world, who otherwise wouldn’t get insulin because there isn’t enough supply or they can’t afford it, will get it,” said Andrew Baum, president and chief executive officer of SemBioSys Genetics Inc.
In outlining the benefits of the technology, Mr. Baum said safflower-produced insulin could reduce capital costs by 70 per cent and product costs by 40 per cent, compared with traditional insulin manufacturing. Currently, pharmaceutical companies use genetically engineered bacteria and yeast to produce synthetic insulin in large steel vats.
SemBioSys says it can potentially make more than one kilogram of human insulin per acre of safflower production. That amount could treat 2,500 diabetic patients for one year and, in turn, meet the world’s total projected insulin demand in 2010 with less than 16,000 acres of safflower production.
The company is hoping it will be successful and be able to deliver insulin to more diabetics at a much lower price in the coming years.