How Synthetic Biology Transforms the Biosciences

In the current age of life sciences, we have come to invent better and better drugs that are increasingly efficient in relieving pain and treating diseases. Despite this positive trend, the world continuously faces serious medicine shortages and in many parts of the world drugs and painkillers may either be too costly or inaccessible altogether. Christina Smolke, Professor of Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering at Stanford University, is tackling these problems in the supply chain by applying a revolutionary new method of drug production. Since the amount of medicines that can be produced worldwide is still limited by the compounds that can be gathered from natural sources – the opium used for painkillers still needs to be harvested from poppies – she skips this step and instead reengineers nature to produce active compounds in much larger quantities. By genetically modifying yeast, Christina and her research team achieved what had been viewed as impossible by many experts: the engineering of a yeast strain that is able to produce opioids which in turn can be used in painkillers. At Falling Walls, Christina explains the promises of this new era of synthetic biology and shows how the humble yeast organism could become the next superstar of the pharma industry.

Christina Smolke

Stanford University

An Associate Professor of Bioengineering and of Chemical Engineering at Stanford University, Christina Smolke is one of the spearheads in the young field of synthetic biology. Making use of advances in chemistry, biology and technology, synthetic biology designs biological systems that do not yet exist in the natural world. By engineering yeast to synthesize opioid drugs, she aims at making pain medicine more available in developing countries. Her breakthrough could lead to much faster and cheaper drug production and could bring on an age of more affordable medicine.

More Breakthroughs

All Breakthroughs

Further Activities to have a look at

We use cookies and other technologies to collect data about your use of our site and about your browser, device and location. We process this data to help us understand how the site is used and to personalize our content and the advertising you see on this and other sites we also share this data with advertising, social media and analytics partners for the same purposes. By choosing “Accept All” you agree that we store cookies on your device and process the data for the aforementioned purposes . You may revoke your consent at any time by choosing the respective settings. For more information on the processing of personal data and what specific services we use see our Privacy Policy

Privacy Preference Center

We use cookies and other technologies to collect data about your use of our site and about your browser, device and location. We process this data to help us understand how the site is used and to personalize our content and the advertising you see on this and other sites we also share this data with advertising, social media and analytics partners for the same purposes. By choosing “Accept All” you agree that we store cookies on your device and process the data for the aforementioned purposes . You may revoke your consent at any time by choosing the respective settings. For more information on the processing of personal data and what specific services we use see our Privacy Policy

Necessary Cookies

These cookies are required to provide you with our site and its functions. Since storing these cookies is necessary for the provision of our site and its functions, you cannot disable them. If you block these cookies via you browser settings our site may not function properly.

Analyse Cookies

These cookies enable us to use website analytics in order to improve our site or provide you with personalized content. They may be set by us or by third party providers whose services we have added to our pages.

Marketing Cookies

These cookies enable us to use online marketing and advertising in order to provide you on this or on other sites with personalized advertisement. They may be set by us or by third party providers whose services we have added to our pages.