It typically takes a year to produce hydrocodone from plants, but scientistst have now genetically modified yeast to make it in just a few days. The technique could improve access to medicines in impoverished nations, and later be used to develop treatments for other diseases.
After a decade's work a team led by Stanford bioengineer Christina Smolke succeeded in finding more than 20 genes from five different organisms and engineering them into the genome of baker's yeast. In so doing they created two different microbial assembly lines, each of which took less than five days to convert sugar into one of two medicinal compounds: either thebaine, which can be refined into painkillers, or hydrocodone which is a prescription painkiller.My first thought is, "Great! No more dependence on poppy growers in war-torn parts of the world. Poppy plants can be eradicated without a problem."
My second thought is, "Oh, no! Anyone who can make beer can now make opioids."