A Northern Arizona University Researcher is Working to Extend Shelf Life of Insulin

A Northern Arizona University Researcher is Working to Extend Shelf Life of Insulin

-Craig Idlebrook

A researcher with Northern Arizona University (NAU) will utilize a $60,000 grant to study ways to extend the shelf life of unrefrigerated insulin.

According to a press release, Gerrick Lindberg, PhD, an assistant professor of physical chemistry, will use a National Institutes of Health grant to test experimental liquid solutions to see if they outperform water-based solutions in keeping non-refrigerated insulin stable. Lindberg and a team of graduate and undergraduate researchers will observe whether the experimental solutions will do better than current water-based solutions in helping preserve the shape and integrity of insulin proteins.

If his research team is successful in finding a better solution for insulin, it could eventually have a far-reaching impact in health care. The announcement mentions that such a discovery could prove a boon to many with diabetes who live without electricity in the Navajo Nation, for example. Lindberg also suggests that extending the shelf life of insulin and other medicines could be vital for successful long-voyage space exploration.

“Imagine a mission to Mars. At best, you have five years before you can restock (medicine),” he stated in the announcement.

It should be noted that this research effort is still in its infancy. It would take extensive experimentation and several rounds of clinical trials to test the safety and effectiveness of such a treatment before it would go before the FDA for approval.

There have been many recent advances in chemistry that have improved the shelf-life or changed the nature of diabetes medicine. In July, Lilly released a nasal glucagon formula, Baqsimi, which does not require refrigeration or mixing before use, for example. There have have been two inhalable insulin formulations on the market, the most recent of which, Afrezza, was approved in 2014. 

Time will tell if Lindberg’s efforts will lead to something equally as transformative.

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