Cells from Baker’s Yeast Used to Produce Penicillin

The yeast could produce more effective antibiotics to fight drug-resistant bacteria.

May 5, 2017 11:52 am
Microscopic image of Penicillium with spores
A magnified view of Penicillium spores. (Associates - Biophoto/Getty Images)

Scientists have engineered yeast to make penicillin. The new production method could be a boon to killing drug-resistant super-bacteria.

Biologists at Imperial College London produced penicillin by genetically engineering cells in baker’s yeast, which is easier than conventional manufacturing methods for antibiotics. The team used the penicillin to kill streptococcus bacteria as a test.

Researchers published the finding of their breakthrough study in the science journal Nature Communications on Friday.

Microscopic image of east cells reproducing
Yeast cells reproducing (Courtesy of Juergen Berger, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, and Maria Langegger, Friedrich Miescher Laboratory of the Max Planck Society, Germany)

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria has become increasingly prevalent in recent years due to the overuse of drugs like penicillin. As treatment became more commonplace, strains of bacteria adapted and evolved.

Synthetic biology techniques like this make it testing potential new drugs easier, opening up an avenue for a range of more effective antibiotics.

Dr. Ali Awan, a co-author from the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London, is confident the method will prove useful. “We believe yeast could be the new mini-factories of the future, helping us to experiment with new compounds in the nonribosomal peptide family to develop drugs that counter antimicrobial resistance,” Dr. Wan said in a press release.

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.