Jan. 19, 2012, 9:56 a.m.
"Artemisinin, a crucial drug in the global fight against malaria, could soon become cheaper and easier to make, thanks to researchers who have found a better way to synthesize the compound," Science NOW reports, providing an overview of the research published in Angewandte Chemie on Monday. "'The impact of this is hard to overestimate,' says Jack Newman, an industrial chemist at Amyris Biotechnologies in Emeryville, California, who was not involved in the work," the news service writes. Newman added that "the supply chain to make artemisinin has been a huge problem," the news service notes.
"Since 2001, WHO has recommended that so-called artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) -- in which artemisinin is combined with another drug -- replace older, ineffective drugs worldwide," Science NOW notes, adding, "These combinations have become a cornerstone of malaria control and are believed to have saved many lives." The news service writes, "Artemisinin is naturally produced by a plant called sweet wormwood," but "[s]ynthesizing artemisinin from scratch has been too costly and cumbersome so far, however, and the plant holds only a tiny fraction of artemisinin" (Kupferschmidt, 1/18).