Can GM yeast cure everything from Ebola to cancer?

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The offices of Adimab, a biotech company in Lebanon, New Hampshire, smell pleasantly of fresh bread. It’s an olfactory illusion, albeit a welcome one. Nobody is baking anything. The laboratory is lined with beaker after beaker of incubating Saccharomyces cerevisiae—yeast.

So, no crusty treats, but instead Adimab is using all that yeast to cure cancer. And Ebola. And Alzheimer’s and antibiotic-resistant bacteria and practically any disease for which a treatment is so ambitious doctors only dare to dream about it. New Hampshire is far from the biotech hubs of Cambridge and San Diego, but Adimab is quietly becoming a driving force behind one of pharma’s most promising new directions—using the naturally-occurring weapons of the immune system to treat disease.

Instead of doing all yeasty things, these cells are making human proteins—specifically antibodies, proteins that bind to yet other proteins on the surfaces of invading bacteria, viruses, and even cancer cells. Infusing patients directly with synthetic antibodies opens up a new front against disease. Former President Jimmy Carter, for example, recently announced he was cancer-free after treatment that included the antibody therapy Keytruda.

When they work, antibodies give new hope to patients with no other options. And much to the delight of pharma companies, antibodies are more challenging to copy generically. The hard part, though, is finding an antibody that actually works in the first place.

Read full, original post: Mutant yeast are cranking out Pharma’s next superdrug

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