Friday, December 31, 2010

History of Insulin - Part 2

After the group of Toronto doctors were able to isolate insulin, treat humans and refine the extract with the help of Eli Lilly; there was still a huge problem.  Supply & distribution.  This area of the exhibit was much smaller than the areas devoted to the discovery of insulin or the advancement of how it was utilized by patients; but had my MBA dork side really excited.

Before a synthetic compound like Novolog or Humalog was created insulin needed to be extracted from the pancreas of a pig.  The below picture shows the number of big pancreases necessary for 1 liter of insulin:
Since everyone loves Wilbur, that was obviously going to cause some supply chain issues!

John Rockefeller then got involved in the process and promised the Eli Lilly corporation $150,000 for the refinement and further development of insulin extracts.  The financing and partnership provided the capital necessary to develop the drug for wide-scale human use and allowed for further partnerships with manufacturing and shipping companies.  Without the wheels of business the discovery of insulin would have impacted the lives of far fewer people.

This part of the exhibit really spoke to me directly.  My professional life has turned towards creating partnerships that allow a product, which I believe will help people lead healthier lives, reach more people.  Until I grasped that I probably would not be alive today if it wasn't for the funding by people like Rockefeller or partnerships between Eli Lilly and Toronto University I don't know that I fully appreciated the necessity of such partnerships.  One can't function without the other and while the discovery of insulin won a Noble prize its reach, scope and impact would have been far less dramatic with the wrong supply and distribution strategy.  This quote from J.K. Lilly to Elliott Joslin kind of sums it up:

"The great and refreshing discovery through this experience
was that the really great men in any line of endeavor are the
most approachable, simple, and direct in their reasoning and contacts.
Both in letter and in spirit, we have endeavored to indicate to you
how precious our relations have been with you and your associates."

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