From Rags to Riches: A Tale of the Little Enzyme that Could

Cracked Science

When I worked in forensics, we had access to a boiling water tap as a way to bypass the kettle when making tea. Little did I know that our instant hot water dispenser was potentially worth 450 million dollars.

The story starts with ecology.

Yawn.

I know. Most people dislike ecology. But trust me: this is a story of money, medicine, and life thriving in hellish conditions.

Microbial ecology was what Thomas D. Brock wanted to study so, unlike the contemporary picture of the labcoat-clad scientist in the air-conditioned lab, he ventured out to Yellowstone National Park to study microorganisms which can photosynthesize. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants will use the energy from the Sun to transform the carbon dioxide we exhale into oxygen and sugar. Certain microorganisms are also capable of this vital feat and Dr. Brock was studying those in the hot springs of the national…

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