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Author: Subject: GMO yeast produces opiates: challenges and opportunities
mayko
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GMO yeast produces opiates: challenges and opportunities

"Genetically Modified Yeast Will Make It Possible to Home-Brew Opiates"
http://www.wired.com/2015/05/genetically-modified-yeast-will-make-possible-home-brew-opiates/

 Quote: YEAST HAS LONG been a friend to human substance abusers. These masterful microbes, among the first fungi domesticated by humans, can take simple sugar from any number of sources and, like magic, ferment it into ethanol. Soon, though, yeast could be used to generate other, more illicit substances, bringing us one step closer to the possibility of homebrewed smack. A paper published today in Nature Chemical Biology details a novel process for replicating poppy’s opiate-producing chemical pathways by genetically modifying good ol’ Saccharomyces cerevisiae. That technology could lay the foundation for low-cost drug discovery, potentially producing anti-cancer therapeutics, antibiotics, and other narcotics. The only hitch: With the right opioid-producing yeast strains, it would also be easier to create morphine, heroin and other drugs at home—no Walter White-level smarts required. Just call it Breaking Bread. No, wait, Brewing Bad. “Right now, you would need a background in synthetic biology and genetics to overcome the challenges to produce the right kind of yeast,” says John Dueber, a bioengineer at UC Berkeley and lead author on the study. “It is not an imminent threat. But if a strain made for licit purposes got out, then all that would be required is knowledge of brewing beer to ferment it into morphine.”

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byko3y
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Fun to read, but I want to remind you that still scientists failed to significantly improve biosynthesis of the morphine alkaloids in poppies more, than a regular selection did.
So just like in the case with ergot, we will have 1 g of morphine from few kilos of sugar.

[Edited on 19-5-2015 by byko3y]
Bert

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A few kilos of sugar. For a gram of morphine.

I can hear someone saying "Your proposal is acceptable"

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j_sum1

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Agreed Bert. Sugar is not that expensive. One gram of morphine is a significant amount. There is a potential problem on the horizon here. I would guess that the pharmaceutical companies that develop this process will be pretty tight on security to protect their corner of the market and prevent the modified strains from escaping. That is not to say that some unscrupulous person might not at some stage let the horse out of the barn.

I think one of the things that buys us time in this situation is the dilution. Any illicit process to produce drugs via this route is likely to be voluminous and therefore difficult to disguise. There is also the non-trivial task of concentrating the product. Not saying it couldn't be done. Just that it is a hurdle that would need to be overcome.
macckone
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An acceptable yield is probably 1%. That means a 55 gal drum would yield about 2 kg.
Not sure what you would feed the microbes but guessing it is more than sugar.
The solution is probably going to be 90% water so you would have to extract a 10% mixture
after boiling it down. Instead of selling drugs, dealers will be selling yeast, nutrients and
instructions.
turd
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 Quote: Originally posted by j_sum1 There is a potential problem on the horizon here.

Not really. There are countries where (quite potent) opium poppies are/were semi-legally available (officially for ornamental purposes) and consumed in the form of poppy tea. Neither did these countries have higher opiate consumption than comparable countries, nor were there notable attempts to refine opiates from these poppies. Compared to imported heroin and diverted pharmaceutical opiates it's simply not worth it.

So the only thing that may happen is that people brew their own opiate containing concoctions. With the exception of the local mafia and warlords in opium growing countries, who would have a problem with that?
phlogiston
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It would be easier to hide a few barrels of fermenting yeast than a field of poppies.
Its probably not a huge problem though.

Biosynthesis of alkaloids by microorganisms has been done before, and it has not been a problem so far.

http://www.yeastgenome.org/yeast-as-a-painkiller-factory
http://www.nature.com/nchembio/journal/v10/n10/abs/nchembio....
http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140211/ncomms4283/abs/ncom...

[Edited on 19-5-2015 by phlogiston]

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macckone
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This will be a problem in the future. It isn't yet because you have to feed the yeast chemicals that aren't readily available. But they are working on yeasts that make these compounds from basic nutrients which is what spawned this thread. Plus the special yeasts have been kept locked up.

also on poppy cultivation. Even in the us some poppy varieties are legal. But only opium poppies produce substantial opium and they are not.
jock88
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Even with proper opium poppies you need proper weather. With the yeast Alaska will do grand
unionised
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Opium poppies are perfectly legal in the UK and I don't know of any ban in the US. Is there one?
Also, they grow just fine here. My Grandmother used to grow them.

[Edited on 26-5-15 by unionised]
The Volatile Chemist
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Genetically modified yeasts are my favorite branch of biotech. So useful. Anyone own/make any? Carolina Bio. sells a kit for adding the GFP gene to bacterium, the kit comes with E. Coli but it states it will work with yeasts too. I don't know much about that kind of stuff though.

jock88
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So you don't need great weather for a good yield?

The wild poppies that grow in disturbed soil (UK and France etc) are highish in opiates. These are the same poppies that grew in abundance on WW1 battle sights and are worn in commeration of WW1.

I know of a case where a person was told to 'do something about them' by the law when they grew in abundance on a building sight.
You can make a tea from them that will blow your head off/put you to sleep.
blogfast25
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 Quote: Originally posted by jock88 I know of a case where a person was told to 'do something about them' by the law when they grew in abundance on a building sight. You can make a tea from them that will blow your head off/put you to sleep.

phlogiston
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 Quote: Originally posted by The Volatile Chemist Genetically modified yeasts are my favorite branch of biotech. So useful. Anyone own/make any?

Yes, I used S. cerevisiae extensively to study fatty acid metabolism. Made all kinds of mutant and transgene yeast strains. Also P. pastoris a few times. But in an professional setting, not as an amateur scientists. I believe it would also not be legal where I live. There is a national register that keeps trakc of who works with what GMO's. There are laws for how to handle them and labs are sometimes inspected.

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The Volatile Chemist
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Quote: Originally posted by phlogiston
 Quote: Originally posted by The Volatile Chemist Genetically modified yeasts are my favorite branch of biotech. So useful. Anyone own/make any?

Yes, I used S. cerevisiae extensively to study fatty acid metabolism. Made all kinds of mutant and transgene yeast strains. Also P. pastoris a few times. But in an professional setting, not as an amateur scientists. I believe it would also not be legal where I live. There is a national register that keeps trakc of who works with what GMO's. There are laws for how to handle them and labs are sometimes inspected.

Really? That sucks. I was really kind of hoping to sell them later in life. Where do you live, the US?

phlogiston
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No, the Netherlands.
Depending on what you want to do exactly, there are sometimes ways to get around it, i.e. to obtain a strain with a desired mutation that you did not introduce via 'genetic modification'.

This is the kind of thing you would do if you really wanted to use a certain mutant for, say, brewing beer but don't want to have to label your beer as 'GMO'.

It is much more work though.

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The Volatile Chemist
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I'm talking about selling bacterium containing things like GFP to the public. I suppose that's restricted? Carolina Bio. sells $75 kits, but you have to modify the organism yourself, so I guess they're not selling GMOs. superamoeba Harmless Posts: 1 Registered: 30-8-2019 Member Is Offline  Quote: Originally posted by unionised Opium poppies are perfectly legal in the UK and I don't know of any ban in the US. Is there one? Also, they grow just fine here. My Grandmother used to grow them. [Edited on 26-5-15 by unionised] In the US, the only part of the P. somniferum plant that is LEGAL to possess are the seeds because they contain zero active alkaloids. It is illegal to grow the plants at all, however, I do see people who get away with doing it in their front yards every year. So, either it is mildly tolerated or most police don't really know what they look like. [Edited on 5-4-2021 by superamoeba] Fyndium International Hazard Posts: 1013 Registered: 12-7-2020 Location: Not in USA Member Is Offline The bad people interested in this would be very interested in brew that turns 2kg of sugar into 1g of morphine. 200L barrel could possibly then make 50-100g of it, if it's as fast as brewing, it takes less than one week including processing it. The price per gram is so high that it would still warrant thousands of % of profit. The effective kg price would be less than 1000$. It must be noted that while something is very cheap in parts of the world it is produced, it can cost thousand times more in other parts, making even very rudimentary production methods highly lucrative, because logistics effectively make the risk-profit ratio too low to transport it. Even more, if there is no organization to share the profits, but it's run by few, even very small scale with little capital costs can make the profit ratio enormous. The classic scheme involves multiple steps from high purity to low price going all the way down to low purity and high price.
karlos³
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The bad people who would be interested in this must be very stupid bad people because the cost of growing and smuggling raw opium is magnitudes lower than the price of making it with GMO yeast.
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 Quote: Originally posted by Fyndium The bad people interested in this would be very interested in brew that turns 2kg of sugar into 1g of morphine.
It's impossible to convert plain sugar into morphine... considering morphine contains nitrogen and sugar does not. The yeast necessarily requires a nitrogen containing feedstock that it is able to process as well. Ideally, this could be something as simple as an ammonium salt, but it may not be that easy. Yeast requires additional nutrients to thrive as well. Even using unmodified yeast to produce alcohol from sugar water is not sustainable without extra nutrients. For someone making moonshine with cheap commercial yeast, this isn't generally a concern, because you can just buy fresh yeast for each batch (and quite often, commercial yeast includes some key nutrients anyway). On the other hand, buying more expensive GMO yeast for every batch is certainly not profitable.

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karlos³
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 Quote: Originally posted by Texium (zts16) On the other hand, buying more expensive GMO yeast for every batch is certainly not profitable.

Not to forget, this stuff is years away from being something you could encounter on the drug producing markets.

And when it will hit them, it will be a monopoly that will tend to outcompete all the naturally made(e.g. via poppy) procedures, which it will possibly do in around 10-15 years, maybe 20.
But at this point, the world will be different anyways.
draculic acid69
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I remember when news about this first broke and I see that this thread is missing a vital part of the story: As soon as the scientists who did this succeeded they let law enforcement and government in on the creation for the purpose of making laws against using selling or possessing this yeast so that instead of the usual game of catch-up of the law trying to get precursors outlawed for years was avoided thus ensuring that there creation was never used outside of predetermined purposes. It was the first time this sequence of events has ever occurred.
zed
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Piffle. Making Opioids is fairly easy. One of my associates was doing it 40 years ago.

This of course, led to his becoming a pathetic dope fiend. Which was sad.

The original post was six years ago. I'm not sure of dates, but CRISPR has come into common use now.

Meaning... genetically engineered organisms, are easier to produce now.

As for Opium Poppies.... They are not uncommon in the USA.

The related Papavar Bracteatum is very common, not illegal to grow, and has a high Thebaine content.

Poisonous as is, but easily converted to Oxycodone, Numorphan, or the dreaded M99.

Now, Lysergic Acid derivatives; THERE bioengineering has potential. Producing Ergot alkaloids, isn't easy. And, existing organisms have resisted manipulation.

[Edited on 9-4-2021 by zed]
karlos³
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What, we already have lysergic acid producing yeast.
Thats not new either.
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