Originally published on June 1st 2020 for Reality Sandwich.
For thousands of years, yeast helped us get drunk. During lockdown, many are discovering the wonders of yeast for sourdough baking projects. But synthetic biology researchers see more potential in yeast than just beer and bread. They have harnessed yeast’s powerful fermentation process to produce everything from egg proteins to pharmaceuticals. Now the Danish startup, Octarine, is giving yeast its first psychedelic awakening.
Octarine uses yeast fermentation to produce psilocybin and cannabinoids without the hassle of growing mushrooms or marijuana. They extracted the specific genes that create the drug from the plants and then inserted those genes into yeast DNA. By combining the modified yeast and a few simple sugars, Octarine produces a pure version of the drug while avoiding many of the limitations, costs and environmental sustainability issues of traditional plant cultivation or chemical synthesis.
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