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Mining fungi for medicine

Photo of fungi by Steve Axford

47 years ago, Cornell professor Kathie Hodge and her students found something unusual while mushroom hunting in the Ithaca woods. It was a rare insect-eating fungus.

When they germinated the spores back in the lab, the fungus produced a totally different speciesa mold called Tolypocladium. This mold is the source of the drug cyclosporine, which suppresses the immune system to allow for organ transplants.

Today, scientists are mining dead insects for the fungi that could lead to the next generation of immunosuppressant medicines.