April 12, 2006
Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering Professor Jay Keasling and his lab group have cleared another hurdle in their quest for an economical way to synthesize malaria drugs.
The group has been refining their method of engineering E. coli and yeast to produce a chemical precursor of artemisinin – the most effective malaria treatment available. Artemisinin is sorely needed in the developing world, but too expensive to produce to be affordable.
Now the researchers have managed to engineer one more step toward the production of the complete drug, with their recent synthesis of artemisinic acid, only one alteration away from artemisinin itself. This brings them to a point where the rest of the refinement can be done through chemistry, not synthetic biology, and very close to their final target of a production cost of only $0.25 per dose. The hope to achieve complete synthesis of artemisinin within another four years
Details of their milestone is published in the April 13 issue of Nature. Read more at the UC Berkeley News Center, or check out the printable pdf story at Berkeley Lab.