Tech + Engineering

11
Apr

Microbes to Make Malaria Drug on Industrial Scale

Artemisinin is an effective drug for treating malaria caused by the protist Plasmodium falciparum, but the only source has traditionally been from the Artemisia annua plant, a Chinese herb, making production vulnerable to natural disasters and fluctations in crop yield. But no more.

Emily Singer, writing for Technology Review:

For the first time, researchers have successfully engineered a strain of baker’s yeast capable of spewing out malaria drugs on an industrial scale. The French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has already begun brewing the microbes and announced plans to generate 70 million doses this year.

This is precisely why Jay Keasling, co-founder of Amyris, another company engineering microbes to produce chemicals, including a precursor to artemisinin, thinks synthetic biology is the field of the future.