A new approach to making the natural malaria drug artemisinin will increase supply and avoid the chemical steps now used to extract the drug from plants. The drug is meant to replace medicines that no longer control the malaria parasite spread by mosquitoes.
An affordable treatment for malaria is closer thanks to a process using both biology and chemistry to make artemisinin – an effective drug currently extracted from plants.
The method bypasses plants as the source of the drug. Instead, modified yeast change sugar into an advanced chemical that can be converted into artemisinin. Skirting plants decreases the cost, increases supply and avoids chemical extractions. A team of industrial and academic researchers in Berkeley, Calif., developed the biochemical route to the drug.
The process provides an alternative to traditional extractive procedures and highlights the increasing use of biotechnology in greener drug manufacturing.