Protein-based drugs are big business, worth more than $17 billion a year. Genetically engineered bacteria and yeast efficiently churn out many protein pharmaceuticals, but as the proteins get more complex, the simple microbes sometimes fail. Drugmakers must then turn to increasingly expensive systems to make the proteins, which drives prices through the roof. Pittsboro, NC-based Biolex may have found an alternative: genetically engineer duckweed, a flowering pond plant, to secrete human proteins. The tiny plants grow very rapidly in a simple nutrient solution-doubling in population every 36 hours-and contain exceptionally large amounts of proteins. Biolex has proved the plants can do the work by using them to make complex therapeutic proteins such as interferons, which are used to treat some forms of cancer and hepatitis. The company is tweaking the system to increase efficiency and says that duckweed-produced drugs could be ready for testing in two to four years.
A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?
Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.
A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate
Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.
10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023
The viral AI avatar app Lensa undressed me—without my consent
My avatars were cartoonishly pornified, while my male colleagues got to be astronauts, explorers, and inventors.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.