Roll out the Barrel

According to this report in the Houston Chronicle, Rice University students are developing a beer that fights cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

BioBeer — a more consumer-friendly name than the original Frankenbeer moniker — will be brewed using yeast genetically modified to produce resveratrol. Resveratrol, a naturally occurring compound found in red wine and a few other foods, has been shown to have cancer-fighting and cardiovascular benefits, at least in mice.

The beer is part of the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. The team of student scientists (only one of whom is old enough to rink legally, by the way) expect to have something drinkable by the end of the semester.

Most of the materials — chemical solutions, pieces of DNA, common lab bacteria — were available from scientific suppliers. But making beer required something else. Brock Wagner, a Rice University alumnus who owns Saint Arnold’s Brewery, donated the yeast.

A key ingredient of beer along with water, fermentable sugar and hops, yeast is responsible for converting sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide.Students are working to modify the yeast with two sets of genes, including one that will allow the yeast to metabolize sugars and produce an intermediate chemical. The second set will convert that chemical to resveratrol.That should result in a healthier beer, produced at no additional cost.

Why beer? Stevenson points to the numbers: Americans consumed 20.5 gallons of beer per capita in 2005, but only 2.5 gallons of red wine.

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I'm a suburban amateur chef and professional writer who hates grocery shopping. Go figure.

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