Lab boost for precious anti-malaria drug

April 10, 2013

US scientists on Wednesday said they had used baker's yeast to make a key ingredient of malaria drugs, a feat that could iron out fluctuations in supply caused by sourcing the chemical from a Chinese herb.

One of the revolutions in in recent decades has been the advent of artemisinin drugs, whose active ingredient comes from a traditional Chinese herb, Artemisia annua.

But weather can affect harvests of the plant, causing shortages and .

In a study published in Nature, a team led by Chris Paddon of Amyris Inc., a biotech firm based in Emeryville, California, reported on a way to ferment artemisinic acid—a precursor to artemisinin—from genetically-engineered baker's yeast.

Their technique derives 25 grammes of concentrate from a litre of artemisinic acid. A previous attempt, reported by a European team last year, made only 1.6 grammes per litre.

The artemisinic acid can then be converted to artemisin by a simple chemical process using oxygen as a catalyst.

"Because all intellectual property rights have been provided free of charge, this technology has the potential to increase provision of first-line antimalarial treatments to the developing world at a reduced average annual price," the researchers said.

In 2010 there were more than 200 million cases of malaria, and at least 655,000 deaths, according to the UN's .

Explore further: New technologies gearing up to meet rising demand for vital malaria drugs

More information: dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature12051

Related Stories

Antimalarial drug artemisinin moves into production

July 12, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A semi-synthetic version of the antimalarial drug artemisinin developed by UC Berkeley's Jay Keasling is moving out of development into full-scale production, helped along by a $10.7 million grant from the ...

New malaria method could boost drug production

February 16, 2012

German scientists have developed a new way to make a key malaria drug that they say could easily quadruple production and drop the price significantly, increasing the availability of treatment for a disease that kills hundreds ...

New process would make anti-malarial drug less costly

May 23, 2012

Scientists are reporting development of a new, higher-yield, two-step, less costly process that may ease supply problems and zigzagging prices for the raw material essential for making the mainstay drug for malaria. That ...

Recommended for you

Team discovers how Zika virus causes fetal brain damage

August 24, 2016

Infection by the Zika virus diverts a key protein necessary for neural cell division in the developing human fetus, thereby causing the birth defect microcephaly, a team of Yale scientists reported Aug. 24 in the journal ...

Zika infection may affect adult brain cells

August 18, 2016

Concerns over the Zika virus have focused on pregnant women due to mounting evidence that it causes brain abnormalities in developing fetuses. However, new research in mice from scientists at The Rockefeller University and ...

Immune breakthrough: Unscratching poison ivy's rash

August 23, 2016

We all know that a brush with poison ivy leaves us with an itchy painful rash. Now, Monash University and Harvard researchers have discovered the molecular cause of this irritation. The finding brings us a step closer to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.