Affordable Medicine for Malaria

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The University of California, Berkeley professor of chemical engineering and bioengineering, Jay D. Keasling and his team, engineered bacteria to make a chemical precursor of artemisinin. Though this is the best drug that is available to cure malaria, the production of it amplified the drug’s cost. Therefore, they began by producing artemisinic acid, which is the closest alternate to artemisinin to this date. Partnering up with OneWorld Health and Amyris Biotechnologies, Keasling and his team were able to develop these low-cost drugs using genetically engineered microbes.

However, more time is required to synthesize artemisinin by bacteria and yeast and to produce a viable microbe version to put on the market. Experiments revolving around arteminisic acid being synthesized in yeast has shown success, but bacteria, which is the more favored option, is still underway due to its constant growing patterns. This would allow the drug to be produced both quickly and more efficiently. In order to produce this version of the drug, extractions must be pulled from a wormwood plant, which requires more time for production and even more time for distribution. This alternative form of artemisinin has proven to be 100% effective against malaria. With this discovery, there is hope for the hundreds of millions of people who are annually infected with malaria and an additional 1.5 million people who die from it. Currently, the price of $2.40 per person for a cure is too great for less-resourced countries. Therefore, with the continuation of development in the usage of artemisinic acid, the University of California, Berkeley will play an active role to ensure affordability in the treatment of malaria.