Stanford team turns lowly yeast into medicine, and so much more

Christina Smolke | Via Mercury News | April 12, 2018

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.