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New Hope in the Fight Against Malaria

Narrator: Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite and it kills more than a million people each year, the majority being children in sub-Saharan Africa. For decades, the primary treatment was chloroquine, but the parasite that causes malaria has become resistant to the drug. There's a new, effective treatment called artemisinin-based combination therapy, but production of the drug is a very expensive and time-consuming process.

Jay Keasling, UC Berkeley/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: My laboratory is working on producing artemisinin, a cure for malaria inside microbes. Currently, the drug is obtained from artemesiania or wormwood, but it's produced in very small quantities and the plant isn't grown widely throughout the world. So, there is really a need for less expensive, more widely available artemisinin. By producing it in microbes, we can produce it much less expensively and also, control where it's being used, which is an important aspect so it's not overused or abused.

Narrator: For more than a decade, Jay Keasling, a chemical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has been working on a way to essentially speed up the production process, making artemisinin cheaper and more abundant. He does this by engineering bacteria to mass produce a cheaper, synthetic version of the drug that's just as effective. And it seems that effort is paying off - a French pharmaceutical company (Sanofi-aventis) recently signed on to help bring the lab's groundbreaking work to the marketplace at a cost that will make a huge impact on the lives of millions of people.

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