Baltimore Biologist Looking To Modify Tobacco Plants To Produce Sex Hormones For Trans People



tobacco plant

Ryan Hammond, a Baltimore based artist and biologist, is working on a project that has the potential to change the landscape of medication for transgender people forever. Hammond is launching his first round of fundraising to help fund his development of transgenic tobacco plants. The plants would produce estrogen and testosterone for hormone treatments. The goal of his project is to make transition medication more readily available for the people that need it.

Hammond will be inserting the genes into the the tobacco plant with the help of the plant pathogen, Agrobacterium. He chose to use the tobacco plant because it has already shown success with being genetically modified to produce hemoglobin, collagen, and Ebola vaccines.

Hammond has been quoted saying that many trans people have to drive hundreds of miles to clinics to receive the drugs that they need to live.  But that’s not the only issue. There are many “experts”who lack the skills and first hand experience that are necessary to treat their trans patients.  His goal is to get the medication directly into the hands of the people who need it. He also hopes that this will lead to the creation of a network of physicians that are available to help transgender people using the DIY hormones to test their blood. Hammond’s project has the potential to create an entirely new community of healthcare, dedicated specifically to the wellbeing of trans people.

Hammond first began toying around in the field of synthetic biology at BUGSS, a biohacking laboratory in Baltimore, Maryland. But, after careful consideration, he is planning to carry out the remainder of his research and development in Ottawa Canada at Pelling Lab. His fundraising goal of twenty two thousand dollars would go towards his training, access to labs, and his living expenses for the year. He is already in contact with thought leaders and professionals in the synthetic biology field to guarantee that his procedures and products are safe.  The project has already been deemed “totally plausible” by NASA Ames Research Center fellow, Josiah Zayner.

Hammond remains realistic in his goals and planning, and is already aware that resounding success in just a year is not possible. He will be using the upcoming year to start research & development of the product, and more importantly, to develop a network of people between the DIY biology community and trans/queer community.


To see the inspiration for this post, see this article.