[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
[SANET-MG] Calgary Firm Turns Safflower Into Insulin
The article below from the Toronto Globe and Mail is a superior example
of public relations in place of real reporting. The major Canadian
papers long ago gave up real reporting on biotechnology in its place
they provide weird public relations exaggerations. Suggesting that the
entrepreneurs of SemBiosSys resemble real scientists is truly bizarre,
as if the reporter had a terminal academic degree from a kindergarten,
such comments should insult the intelligence of even members of parliament.
Presently recombinant insulin is synthesized in bacteria and in bakers
yeast from synthetic approximations of human genes. Many of the
formulations have been "improved" by alerting the genetic code to
enhance cell uptake and stability of the synthetic hormone. The main
production costs of the bacterial and yeast preparation are in
purification and formulation.Purifying insulin from safflower seeds may
not be a huge improvement over the microbial production. Safflower can
get rather weedy and recombinant safflower is not likely better behaved.
The impact on browsing cattle or sheep is likely to be insulin shock, a
new variant of the western "loco" weeds. It would have been nice if the
Globe and Mail had ever heard of balanced reporting.
Calgary Firm Turns Safflower Into Insulin
- Leonard Zehr, Globe and Mail, July 19, 2006
In a breakthrough that could rival the discovery of insulin by Canadians
Frederick Banting and Charles Best in 1921, a Calgary 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.
Currently, pharmaceutical companies use genetically engineered bacteria
and yeast to produce synthetic insulin in large steel vats. SemBioSys
genetically manipulates plant-seed oils to create proteins that can be
used to produce drugs and non-drug products. By inserting a human
insulin gene into a safflower plant, for example, the technology has led
to the recovery of human insulin as the plant grows and seeds develop,
the company says.
Mr. Baum said the company's next goal is to demonstrate, by the end of
the year, that its product works as well as insulin currently on the
market to control blood glucose levels. That would set the stage for a
request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval to begin
human clinical testing at the end of 2007, which would also likely draw
the interest of a major pharmaceutical company to take part in the
clinical trials. SemBioSys says it can 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. Worldwide demand for insulin
is forecast to soar to 16,000 kg by 2010, from an estimated 4,000 to
5,000 kg last year, because more people are developing the disease and
are being diagnosed earlier in their lives, and because of the
development of new products such has inhaled insulin, which requires
five to 10 times the amount of injected insulin, Mr. Baum said.
Mr. Baum, a 50-year-old industrial engineer by training, founded Calgene
Inc. of Davis, Calif., in 1981, which went on to develop a genetically
engineered "flavour saver tomato" that could be harvested and delivered
ripe to grocery stores. Monsanto Co., the world's biggest developer of
genetically modified crops, acquired Calgene in 1997 for $240-million
At Calgene, Mr. Baum worked with Maurice Moloney, a renowned plant
molecular biologist who developed genetically modified canola. Mr.
Moloney, now 53, left the company in 1987 to become the first chairman
of the biotechnology department at the University of Calgary, which was
making a big push in the sector. At the university, he pursued his
research and developed the technology that led to the creation of
SemBioSys, a university spin-off.
"Morris called me out of the blue after the Monsanto deal and offered me
a job as CEO of what was largely an academic project at the time that he
wanted to take to the next level," Mr. Baum recalled. The company went
public at the end of 2004.
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
Mr. Moloney, who is SemBioSys's chief scientific officer, said
scientists in the past have tried to make insulin from plants, but
commercial quantities were never achieved.
SemBioSys believes its product would require about $80-million in
capital investment to make 1,000 kg of insulin, compared with
$250-million per 1,000 kg for traditional insulin. "This company exists
because it has the production and manufacturing capacity that suggests
they can beat everybody on price," said Brian Bapty, an analyst with
Raymond James in Vancouver. "If you can be the lowest cost producer in
an expanding market, you stand to get the bulk of the business."
To unsubscribe from SANET-MG:
1- Visit http://lists.sare.org/archives/sanet-mg.html to unsubscribe or;
2- Send a message to <email@example.com> from the address subscribed to the list. Type "unsubscribe sanet-mg" in the body of the message.
Visit the SANET-MG archives at: http://lists.sare.org/archives/sanet-mg.html.
Questions? Visit http://www.sare.org/about/sanetFAQ.htm.
For more information on grants and other resources available through the SARE program, please visit http://www.sare.org.