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Biotech The Almighty Buck

Bee Venom Has "Botox-Like Effect," Is Worth 7 Times As Much As Gold 248

Posted by timothy
from the not-sure-smart-money-is-the-right-word dept.
dryriver writes "The BBC reports that cosmetic products using bee venom as an ingredient are a new 'hot seller' in the cosmetics market. Bee venom is said to have an effect on female skin similar to Botox injections, tightening the skin and making wrinkles and other signs of aging appear less pronounced than before. Unlike Botox, however, bee venom does not need to be injected, and can be absorbed through the skin naturally as an ingredient of cosmetic skin creme. Now comes the kicker: A special electrified device that causes bees to sting a synthetic membrane and release their venom can harvest about one gram of bee venom from 20 bee hives. That one gram of bee venom is worth a whopping 350 dollars. This makes bee venom almost seven times more valuable than gold, which, in comparison, is worth only about 53 dollars per gram."
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Bee Venom Has "Botox-Like Effect," Is Worth 7 Times As Much As Gold

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  • Not for long (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 24, 2012 @12:44AM (#42379423)

    Instead of producing it from bees for $350/g, you could put the appropriate genes into some E. coli and have them produce it for 20% of that price or less. But of course then you wouldn't be able to sell it for $350/g.

  • by Fyzzler (1058716) on Monday December 24, 2012 @12:51AM (#42379451)
  • Re:Botox (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 24, 2012 @01:05AM (#42379507)

    Considering the price of the active ingredient i think it's fair to assume that the quantities in any anti-ageing product will be about as effective as any current venomless skin cream, maybe they feel that, since women are already very used to convincing themselves of the efficacy of some made up or at least utterly useless new wonder molecule they're also most likely to feel the effects of any bee venom branded moisturisers.

  • The HORROR... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Monday December 24, 2012 @01:38AM (#42379633)

    Well, this will certainly aggravate the Vegans, who believe that honey is not "vegan" because we are enslaving the bee.

    http://www.vegetus.org/honey/honey.htm [vegetus.org]

    Though I'm sure they happily eat fruits and vegetables that are pollinated with domesticated bees that farmers have "enslaved"...

  • Lolwut (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Psicopatico (1005433) <psicopatico@acca ... com ['zn.' in ga> on Monday December 24, 2012 @01:54AM (#42379705)

    Bee's venom can kill by inducing shock in allergic subjects.
    It looks like it has a very nasty property of being a potential allergenic (I hope I got the correct term. If not, sorry) meaning: once you get stinged, you may become allergic to venom even if before you weren't. This in sufficently predisposed subjects.

    And now it is going to be the golden ingredient for some cosmetic? I hope it is going to be subjected to some form of medical control, to say the least.

    But I'm no chemist nor biologist so I may be completely wrong.

  • Not quite as simple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DrYak (748999) on Monday December 24, 2012 @07:03AM (#42380553) Homepage

    First you have to know which compound of the venom are the active ingredient (a venom is not a single molecule, it's a big mix of lots of substances).

    Maybe the important part are just small peptide (works also for small nucleic acid strands). In this case, yes: just slap the gene inside a bacteria or yeast and just harvest the thing in a huge brewery tank. This will cost a tiny fraction of the current method. (as in "a few bucks for a dozen of kilograms"). Washing industry thrives on this kind of process and has already made it fucking incredibly cheap (do you really think that the digestive enzyme in your washing powder where harvested from actual animals ?)

    But maybe not. Maybe it can be a complex protein that requires some post processing (chaperone helping to fold it into an unusual shape, enzyme modifying some parts) - (but very unlikely. If the venom can cross the skin without injection, it needs to be something small). Or maybe it can be a small chemical molecule that is produced by a long and complex chain of chemical reaction necessitating a big collection of enzymes (very likely, given that it can easily cross the skin).
    In this case you need to identify the candidate, understand the process that produce it (not impossible but it takes time), and then either put the whole machinery inside yeast (bacteria post-process a lot less their proteins) and go for the brewery-tank method, or replicate the synthesis in another way (produce the protein in bacteria and then do the modification in a lab. Or find a way to synthetise the small chemical compound by using a sequence of chemical reactions in a lab) and scale it up to industrial scale.
    This *WILL* end up being incredibly cheap in the long term, but requires much more research and development.

    There's a whole branch of science to study that, called "Venomics".

    Until then, you're stuck at putting bee on a micro electric chair until they are so pissed of that they start stinging the glass.

    (And I'm betting that perhaps, all the benefit come from the few traces of adrenalin-like substance that the bee end-up secreting after going through such predicament and of which a small part might end up in the venom itself).

    But the fact that they extract only a gram from a whole hive, means that they are probably concentrating/extracting the product already, so they know already a few tips in which direction to look to find the interresting part.

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