rBIO launches aiming to increase manufacturing output of insulin

rBIO plans to lower cost of insulin by 30% through the ‘hyper-expression’ of newly-developed strains of bacteria.

The start-up company is launched out of San Francisco and arrives alongside the news that it has successfully synthetically produced human insulin, using E. coli bacteria as the host for recombinant DNA synthesis.

According to rBIO, the next stages for the biotech are to upscale production of insulin and to identify other prescription drugs that can be manufactured using its approach.

rBIO is using E. coli bacteria as the host for recombinant DNA synthesis. Image: iStock/Dr_Microbe

Already the company has stated that, as well as insulin, it will target epinephrine and erythropoietin, with a further five targets remaining undisclosed.

Founder, Cameron Owen, told BioProcess Insider about the company’s approach: “We have designed completely new strains of bacteria that have never existed before by writing their genetic code much like a programmer would write a new piece of software.

“Recombinant DNA technology has been a ‘game’ of copy-paste for several decades, but being able to uniquely code synthetic life represents a significant step forward in the field of biology, with some major future implications.”

‘Hyper-express’ insulin

In terms of how its approach differs, Owen stated that the biotech has ‘suppressed’ most normal metabolic functions to allow the microbe to ‘hyper-express’ insulin, in this way improving the amount of end-product.

Manufacturing at the volume required has previously been noted as a barrier to both enter and be successful in what is a competitive marketplace.

The biotech projects that its approach could enable it to lower the cost of insulin by as much 30%.

Alongside this aim, rBIO also stated its intention to ‘reshore’ insulin manufacturing back in the US, with the company pointing out that of the WHO’s essential medicine list only 21% of these are manufactured in the country.

When asked what the biotech’s manufacturing plans are and how it will achieve this, Owen replied that the next step for rBIO is to increase yields of insulin and to expand their work on further compounds. After this, rBIO will seek US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for its product.

“However, given that the manufacturing process is so similar to that of a brewery, this is truly just a matter of scale and raising the necessary funding to do so,” he concluded.