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OneWorld Health Recognizes Artemisinin Development Collaborators On Malaria Awareness Day

Armen Hareyan's picture

Malaria Awareness Day

The Institute for OneWorld Health is marking Malaria Awareness Day by recognizing its scientific collaborators, UC Berkeley and Professor Jay Keasling, and Amyris Biotechnologies, for the significant progress made utilizing synthetic biology to develop microbially derived artemisinin.

Artemisinin is a costly plant extract used in artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) for malaria.

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The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends using ACTs as first line treatment for malaria in regions where traditional first line treatments for malaria are no longer effective due to increasing drug resistance. The commercial-scale applicability of the microbially derived artemisinin technology has the potential to supplement existing plant-derived materials with a new, low-cost, high-quality source of artemisinin to help meet the projected world-wide demand for ACTs.

"We are working with Professor Keasling and Amyris Biotechnologies to prepare this technology for pilot-scale manufacturing," said Nina Grove, OneWorld Health's Senior Director for Commercialization Strategy & Planning and Malaria Program Director. "We look forward to the next phase of the project that will bring this important technology from a scientific idea to a humanitarian success."

The Institute for OneWorld Health received a $42.6 million, five-year grant in December 2004 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a new, low-cost technology platform for producing a stable, high-quality source of artemisinin and its derivatives. OneWorld Health is using a portion of this award to sponsor research and development activities at UC Berkeley and at Amyris Biotechnologies. OneWorld Health is developing the commercialization plan for engaging pharmaceutical companies to manufacture microbially derived artemisinin and integrate the new source of artemisinin into their ACTs to lower costs to patients.

Professor Keasling's research on the production of the antimalarial drug precursor, artemisinic acid, in microbially engineered yeast was published in Nature last year. His work on microbially derived artemisinin earned him Discover magazine's inaugural Scientist of the Year award in December 2006. Amyris Biotechnologies was selected by the World Economic Forum as one of 36 Technology Pioneers for 2006.