Genetically modified yeast produces opioids

With the advancement in the field of biotechnology, various genetically modified organisms (GMO) have been developed in order to produce the products that are well suited for human consumption and are economical to produce. Adding to this quest, the researchers are developing a strain of the yeast which will be capable of producing the opioids to be used as a pain killer.

The researcher Christina Smolke and her colleagues from the Stanford have successfully altered the genes of the baker’s yeast enabling it to convert glucose in to hydrocodone which is an opioid widely used as pain killer. They have also developed another strain capable of producing ‘thebaine’ which is a precursor of opioids. Smolke’s research is better than other similar works as this strain can perform all 15 conversion strain itself which was not possible initially.

This newly developed strain is more efficient in producing the opioids than the conventional methods. So it has the potential to produce the drugs at much lower costs. Various concerns were raised on the security issues in case the addicts get their hands on this strain and obtain the opioids themselves. But Smolke rejected this idea stating that, “when you home-brew, you grow yeast populations very differently than in a lab or for commercial production.”


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