In 1929, Alexander Fleming unintentionally discovered penicillin after noticing that the Penicillium genus fungus in his lab was unaffected by the bacteria around it. He named the active ingredient in the fungus penicillin, and he continued to study the active agent until he concluded his research in 1931. About a decade later, two researchers at Oxford University began their own examination on the effects of penicillin and its relationship to bacterial infections. This research led to a major shift in modern medicine, and previously deadly infections like pneumonia finally had a treatment and cure. Fungi was crucial in paving this new future for humankind, and in the age of sustainability research, it continues to lead us to new solutions.
Many entrepreneurs and scientists alike have turned back to nature to address the climate crisis. In an effort to find better energy sources, reduce water waste, and sustain our food supply, we have seen a boom in new technologies that utilize the natural resources around us. From carbon capture with sea kelp to organic dyes for clothing, there are all kinds of solutions to create an economy and lifestyle that is circular and sustainable. Fungi has entered this conversation, and as a result, technology has incorporated its properties to help create long-lasting alternatives. Mycelium, in particular has been used to produce substitutes in several industries in an effort to reduce the damaging effects of products that generate pollution and waste.