College students often spend their free time thinking about beer, but a group of Rice University students are taking it to the next level. They're using genetic engineering to create beer that contains resveratrol, a chemical in wine that's been shown to reduce cancer and heart disease in lab animals.
Their entry last year, a bacterial virus that fought antibiotic resistance, was well-received but finished out of the prize running.
"After last year's contest, we were sitting around talking about what we'd do this year," said junior Taylor Stevenson. "(Graduate student) Peter Nguyen made a joke about putting resveratrol into beer, but none of us took it seriously."
But when the team began looking in earnest for a new project this spring, they discovered a good bit of published literature about modifying yeast with resveratrol-related genes. When they looked further, they found two detailed accounts by teams that had attacked both halves of the metabolic problem independently.
"That was when we said, 'You know, we could actually do this,'" said junior Thomas Segall-Shapiro.
Ironically, most of the team's undergraduate members aren't old enough to legally drink beer.