Psychedelic compound could be produced in yeast

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability

Researchers from the Technical University of Denmark in Kongens Lyngby have found that that psilocybin, a potential drug for treating depression and other psychological conditions, can be produced in yeast.

Psilocybin mushrooms have been found to have minimal harmful effects and could potentially benefit those with depression, but they remain illegal. However, psychedelics are currently riding a wave of positive momentum brought on by cannabis, the researchers said, and if psilocybin gets approved as a pharmaceutical drug, production in yeast appears to be the most commercially viable option.

Bio-based production of psilocybin has gained big interest and researchers have already proved small-scale production in E. coli. However, production in bacteria comes with a wide range of concerns which can be addressed by using yeast instead.

In yeast, the scientists prove that psilocybin can be produced de novo, which means that you can produce the molecule by simply growing the yeast with sugar and other nutrients, without the need to add any other starting substrates.

Producing psilocybin de novo in E. coli is difficult since a key enzyme in the biosynthetic pathway doesn't work in bacteria, and so to get around this problem you need to add an expensive starting substrate, making the whole production process too costly.

Additionally, yeast also performs better in large-scale fermentation due to its long history in the beer brewing process, and also in the purification process since E. coli produces additional potentially harmful compounds.