Thu | Apr 19, 2018

Scientists improve malaria drug production

Published:Thursday | February 22, 2018 | 12:00 AM
In this February 1, 2012 file photo, Prof. Peter Seeberger, a former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor poses with a molecule model at his laboratory in Berlin, Germany.

BERLIN (AP):

Scientists in Germany who developed a new way to make a key malaria drug several years ago said yesterday they have come up with a technique to make the process even more efficient, which should increase global access and reduce the cost.

The new procedure refines a method developed in 2012 at the Max Planck Institute to use the waste product from the production of artemisinin, which is extracted from a plant known as sweet wormwood, to produce the drug itself. That involved a new machine that could convert about 40 per cent of the waste acid into artemisinin itself, producing more of the drug from what had in the past been discarded.

The new procedure uses the plant's own chlorophyll instead of additional chemicals as catalysts to drive the reaction, directly using the crude materials to produce the drug more efficiently, chemist Kerry Gilmore said.

"We're able to get much more out of the plant than ever before," he said. "The process we have now is more efficient and significantly cheaper than what we had in 2012."

The World Health Organization reported in November that there were 216 million malaria cases worldwide in 2016, up 5 million over 2015, and 445,000 people died of the disease, primarily children. Artemisinin-based therapies are considered the best treatment, but often cost far too much for many of the impoverished communities worst hit by malaria.