The drug industry has been close to finding a way to manufacture opioids using a yeast fermentation process. Close doesn't count however if you are missing the final gene in the pathway that you need to make a synthetic product.
Now with a discovery by University of Calgary researcher Dr. Peter Facchini, that final step has been taken and the path is opening up to new possibilities in manufacturing novel painkillers. Dr. Facchini found the gene that encodes thebaine synthase. It is the essential starting point in the synthesis of widely-prescribed pharmaceuticals, including the analgesics oxycodone and hydrocodone and the addiction treatments buprenorphine and naltrexone. Genome Alberta helped to fund his early work with opium poppies and that has paid off with first the formation of a new company, Epimeron, and now with this new discovery.
Joseph Tucker is CEO of Epimeron and I talked with him at BIO in Boston where he is looking for new partners to move from this new discovery and into some practical application.