Cheap Malaria Drug Holds Promise for Millions

It's based on 2000-year-old herbal remedy
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 4, 2008 3:15 AM CDT
Bill and Melinda Gates address a forum of 300 malaria scientists and policy makers with the goal of eradicating the disease worldwide.    (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
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(Newser) – The lives of millions of children  may be saved by a new technique for producing a malaria drug at a 10th of the cost of current treatments, making it accessible the world's most impoverished people, reports the Independent.  The technique involves inserting a dozen synthetic genes into yeast cells, then fermenting them, with sugar, in giant vats, to produce the active ingredient, artemisinin.

Bill and Melinda Gates financed research which will mass produce the drug,  based on a 2000-year-old Chinese remedy that uses the dried leaves and flowers of sweet wormwood. "The process is very similar to brewing beer—but we're talking about turning on 12 genes simultaneously," said a scientist. "We want it to be affordable to people who need it, to be available to people who need it, and we don't want it to be abused."