100 Years of Insulin

The University of Toronto is presenting a virtual conference in April 2021 to celebrate Dr Fredrik Banting and Dr Charles Best’s life changing discovery as it turns 100 years young. There will also be a series of pre-recorded presentations available in January 2021. Registration is free to all.


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In keeping with the spirit of Banting and Best, who sold the American patents for insulin to the University of Toronto for $1.00 each, the symposium materials will be complimentary.


Lots of interesting topics and speakers!


Did Banting really manage to patent a simple chemical that every eukaryote with a functioning pancreas produces? Shame on him. I thought that was only possible in more recent years, when the definition of invention was adjusted to include merely observation, no creation required.

I believe the original patent had more to do with the process to manufacture the insulin rather than the chemical itself.


Yes, they patented the purification process and Banting actually was reluctant to patent the process. According to Wikipedia, it went like this:

Toward the end of January 1922, tensions mounted between the four “co-discoverers” of insulin and Collip briefly threatened to separately patent his purification process. John G. FitzGerald, director of the non-commercial public health institution Connaught Laboratories, therefore stepped in as peacemaker. The resulting agreement of 25 January 1922 established two key conditions: 1) that the collaborators would sign a contract agreeing not to take out a patent with a commercial pharmaceutical firm during an initial working period with Connaught; and 2) that no changes in research policy would be allowed unless first discussed among FitzGerald and the four collaborators. It helped contain disagreement and tied the research to Connaught’s public mandate.

Initially, Macleod and Banting were particularly reluctant to patent their process for insulin on grounds of medical ethics. However, concerns remained that a private third-party would hijack and monopolize the research (as Eli Lilly and Company had hinted), and that safe distribution would be difficult to guarantee without capacity for quality control. To this end, Edward Calvin Kendall gave valuable advice. He had isolated thyroxin at the Mayo Clinic in 1914 and patented the process through an arrangement between himself, the brothers Mayo, and the University of Minnesota, transferring the patent to the public university. On April 12, Banting, Best, Collip, Macleod, and FitzGerald wrote jointly to the president of the University of Toronto to propose a similar arrangement with the aim of assigning a patent to the Board of Governors of the University. The letter emphasized that:

The patent would not be used for any other purpose than to prevent the taking out of a patent by other persons. When the details of the method of preparation are published anyone would be free to prepare the extract, but no one could secure a profitable monopoly.



Read from here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insulin#Discovery down.

Googling “Discovery of Insulin” gets results akin to what, presumably, “Discovery of the Moon” will get in future years.

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