BioSoc invites people to join them for their final talk of Michaelmas, where Stanford synthetic biologist Dr Christina Smolke will speak about her research in engineering organisms to synthesise drugs.
Note: BioSoc charge £3 per talk on the door or £10 for membership of the society
In 2015, Smolke pioneered the effort to design new yeast strains that can create opioids - before this, the only way to source opioids was purifying them from the opium poppy. For such an important class of drugs, it was difficult to rely on the variable crop yields. By taking genes involved in opioid synthesis from the poppy and inserting them into yeast, she was able to produce the world's first narcotic through synthetic biology. Currently, the Smolke lab is investigating ways to further engineer the pathway to create novel opioids with fewer side effects.
In addition to being named one of Nature's 10 people who mattered in 2015, Smolke has had an extremely successful academic career so far: she started her own lab at Caltech at 28 and heads a start-up, Antheia, aiming to get these yeast-produced opioids into mass production.