A strain of baker’s yeast capable of producing malaria drugs on an industrial scale has been successfully engineered by the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi. The company has already begun cooking up the microbes and plans to generate 70 million doses this of the drug this year. Malaria is a disease that sickens millions of people each year, killing at least 650,000 people a year, mostly children. This has become strain that was created has become the first synthetic biology project that has been scaled up to industrial manufacturing. While there has been a previous yeast created that is capable of producing the artemisinic acid needed to make the drug but the yield has been dramatically improved from 1.6 grams per liter to 25 grams per liter. This improvement came from the discovery of three key enzymes in the sweet wormwood, which naturally produces artemisinin, being introduced to the yeast. Because the drug is primarily plant derived its cost can vary between $350 to 41200 per kilogram of the active ingredient because the botanical supply is inconsistent. The synthetic process can run year round and takes 3 months vs. 15 months for the plant-based methods. Sanofi aims to produce 60 tons of the material next year which is equal to 120 million courses of treatment and have pledged to sell it non-profit.
Being able to mass produce a cure for malaria will greatly improve the overall health and death rate in the areas that are affected by the deadly disease. The cure will cost less because of a greater supply and people will be able to live their lives knowing that if they are to get the infected with malaria that death is no longer the most common option. With the advances in technology, hopefully we will see an eradication of malaria.