2014_11 Genes from the Titanic?

Cephalotaxus hainanensis - almost extinct, but source of valuable anti-cancer compounds.

Harringtonins show fabolus effects in the chemotherapy of cervix cancers. The most potent types are produced in the bark of the primordial gymnosperm Cephalotaxus hainanensis. However, not for long – this precious tree exists only on the Chinese island of Hainan in only two dozens of individuals, which, even worse, are either male or female and need bodyguards against biopiracy of the costly bark. Together with the team of KIT-Alumnus Dr. Fei Qiao we could decipher the complete transcriptome of this dying species. As proof for the high quality of our gene collection we were able to predict the existence of a metabolic pathway for paclitaxel (also a crucial anti-tumour drug). We further could show experimentally that, indeed, Cephalotaxus can snythetise the predicted paclitaxel. In the next step we want now render these „Genes from the Titanic“ by means of our microfluidic bioreactor (press release 2014-09) accessible for biotechnology.

109. Qiao F, Chong H, Wang R, Yin J, Qian D, Yang X, Jiang X, Nick P (2014) De-novo characterization of a Cephalotaxus hainanensis transcriptome and genes related to paclitaxel biosynthesis. PloS ONE9, e106900 - pdf