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Stanford University School of Medicine

Finding medicine where you least expect it: Christina Smolke presents at TEDxStanford

Nearly half of our medicines are obtained from nature and many are derived from plants. We're fortunate to have plants that synthesize medicines for us, but relying on plants — which are subject to nature's unpredictability and schedule — poses several challenges for researchers who are working to meet the global demand for medicine.

"Most of the people on this planet, still to this day, have insufficient access to medicines," says biochemist Christina Smolke, PhD. In her recently released talk from TEDxStanford 2016, Smolke discusses these challenges and how her lab is working to amplify the drug-producing power of plants by using yeast to develop painkillers quickly and cheaply. She explains:

Most of our most valuable and needed medicines are not going to be provided by nature. These plants are not making these compounds as medicines for us, they're making these compounds for their own purposes, oftentimes for defense, and that means there's just a large set of medicines that we're not going to be able to source from nature.

The research is still in its early stages: "We're not yet ready to declare victory," Smolke says. But she's hopeful that someday soon this technology will make it possible to develop new medicines that are readily available for everyone who needs them.

Previously: Gold particles light the way for brain surgeons: Adam de la Zerda presents at TEDxStanfordBuilding a concussion-proof helmet: A Stanford bioengineer shares his findings at TEDxStanford and Better drugs, fewer plants
Video courtesy of TEDxStanford

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