Fermentation process could become important new production method for artemisinin
Using genetically engineered baker’s yeast, researchers have come up with a shortcut to making artemisinin, a frontline drug against malaria. Christopher Paddon of Amyris Inc. of Emeryville, Calif., and his colleagues describe their process April 10 in Nature.
Last year the team reported that they could ferment the bioengineered yeast to make amorphadiene, a precursor of artemisinic acid. In the new study, they improve the yield of the precursor and then spell out a process for converting artemisinic acid to artemisinin itself. The researchers say the overall strategy could streamline artemisinin manufacturing.
Artemisinin, which the sweet wormwood plant produces in its leaves, is an ancient malaria remedy. In recent years, artemisinin-based drugs have become mainstays against the parasite when combined with another drug (SN: 6/16/2007, p. 381). Current artemisinin production requires growing the plants for m