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New semi-synthetic antimalarial drug in production

 

Narrator:        This is Science Today. There will be a new, cost-effective, semi-synthetic antimalarial drug on the market, thanks to a discovery made a dozen years ago in the lab of chemical engineer Jay Keasling of the University of California, Berkeley.

Keasling:       It's been an incredible 12 years. We've come from the very basic science — trying to discover genes in a metabolic pathway in a plant that makes a natural product to getting those in a microbe and developing a process to produce in large scale this drug that people need and it's a really simple process, right, it's like brewing beer.

Narrator:       Keasling says the new drug is based on artemisinin, a plant-based drug that is today's front-line treatment for malaria.

Keasling:       One day one of my graduate students said, "Jay — look at this molecule. It's an antimalarial drug and it means life and death for a lot of children whose parents can't afford the drugs," and we looked at that and thought, gosh — this should be something we can produce.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.