Aug 12 French drugmaker Sanofi said on
Tuesday it had delivered the first large-scale batches of an
antimalarial drug made using semi-synthetic artemisinin, a key
ingredient usually derived from the sweet wormwood plant.
Shipping the treatment to six malaria-endemic countries in
Africa marks a new phase in the fight against the mosquito-borne
disease and will reduce reliance on volatile supplies of the
Chinese medicinal plant.
Both the botanical supply of sweet wormwood and the price of
artemisinin can fluctuate widely, leading to periodic shortages.
The Chinese army first managed to isolate artemisinin from
the sweet wormwood shrub in the 1960s and the medicine has since
become the world's best line of defence against malaria, with
artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT) now recommended
for the most deadly forms of the disease.
The new manufacturing process pioneered by Sanofi and
U.S.-based non-profit PATH produces the ingredient on an
industrial scale using a genetically modified yeast to convert
sugar into a precursor of artemisinin.
Sanofi said it had the capacity to produce 50 to 60 tonnes a
year of semi-synthetic artemisinin, which corresponds to a third
of the global annual need.
ACT drugs are recommended by the World Health Organisation
because of growing resistance to older treatments such as
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Kate Kelland)