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Researchers at MIT, in collaboration with Tufts University, have discovered a new means of using E. coli bacteria to produce, in larger quantities potentially for less money,  a compound used in the production of the cancer drug Taxol. The drug, also known as paclitaxel, is commonly used to treat ovarian, lung and breast cancers.

Taxol was originally made using a compound, known as taxadiene, from the Pacific yew tree, but a single dose required two to four yew trees to yield enough of the compound. Scientists later discovered how to synthesize Taxol in the lab, but the process involves 35 to 50 steps and results in low yield.

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