Researchers Bark Up New Tree to Manufacture Cancer Drug

November/December 2010, Vol 1, No 6 - Value Propositions


Paclitaxel (Taxol), which is produced from the bark of the yew, may become cheaper and easier to produce now that researchers have isolated and grown stem cells from that tree (Nat Biotechnol. Published online October 24, 2010. doi:10.1038/nbt.1693). The current manufacturing process is expensive, requires supplies of mature trees, and creates environmentally damaging by-products. Working from stem cells would eliminate the dangerous by-products and allow creation of large amounts of the drug. The scientists behind this research have also cultured stem cells from other plants with medicinal purposes.