For millenniums, humans have harnessed yeast to brew beer. Now, in the latest advance in the fast-moving field of “synthetic biology,” a Stanford team is enlisting the lowly fungus to do so much more.
On Monday, the Stanford scientists announced that they have coaxed genetically altered yeast not to ferment, as nature intended, but to pump out noscapine, a non-narcotic cough suppressant whose only viable natural source is opium poppies.
Their success brings us one step closer to the day when cells become a faster, safer and better pipeline for applications in medicine and industry.
The field is building on what ancient cultures have always known: Plants such as opium poppies have molecules with many valuable medicinal properties. But these molecules are designed to help plants, not us, so they make only small quantities. And obtaining medicinal compounds from plants is hard, time consuming and potentially dangerous… Continue reading.
Back in 2015, a 40-year-old synthetic biologist named Christina Smolke, along with a small team of researchers at Stanford, made a huge discovery. They proved that a genetically engineered yeast could produce opioid molecules, the core ingredients of some of the world’s most widely prescribed pain medicines.
Using yeast to produce things is as old as beer and bread, but with the complete mapping of, and increasing understanding of, the entire yeast genome–the totality of its DNA–the microbes are being used to produce more complex and valuable things, like fuels and medicines. Twenty percent of bioengineered drugs are now produced with microbials, including a great many produced with organisms other than yeast. But Smolke’s mission to make opioids out of yeast is on another level of complexity, requiring many successful chemical reactions as the yeast metabolizes sugar… Continue reading.
WASHINGTON, D.C.— The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has announced the pending induction of Christina D. Smolke, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Bioengineering and, by courtesy, of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, Stanford University, to its College of Fellows. Dr. Smolke was nominated, reviewed, and elected by peers and members of the College of Fellows For outstanding contributions in biological engineering and synthetic biology, especially RNA systems that process information and control biological processes.