Antimalarial drug development // Drug Repurposing

Antimalarial drug development

A hand holds a freshly picked artemisinin plantSignificance of artemisinin

In the 1970s, a new class of antimalarials—artemisinin derivatives—were first isolated and developed in China. Artemisinin is found naturally in the leaves of Artemisia annua (a plant used by Chinese healers as early as 168 B.C. to treat many illnesses), and its derivatives have proved highly potent against malaria parasites. Additionally, pairing artemisinin derivatives with a companion drug slows parasite resistance. In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the adoption of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) as the first-line treatment for uncomplicated malaria in Africa and Asia caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, replacing older, less effective drugs.

Uncertain market

A crowd waits in an outdoor area to be called in for malaria treatment.With growing global demand for ACTs, the world’s supply of artemisinin has not always kept pace. Currently, supply depends solely on the A. annua crop, which soars and plunges as prices for artemisinin fluctuate. Harvesting artemisinin from a plant, which is mostly cultivated in China and Vietnam, can take between 12 to 15 months from planting to extraction, and its yield and quality fluctuate due to environmental factors, competing crops, financial concerns, and/or political instability. Supply and demand volatility prevents antimalarial treatments from getting into the hands of the people who need them.

Creating a second source

To strengthen production of artemisinin, OneWorld Health (now PATH’s Drug Development program) collaborated with academic, biotech, and pharmaceutical partners to create a new, pharmaceutical manufacturing process using synthetic biology. Scientists first had to isolate the genes from the wormwood plant required to make artemisinic acid. Taking genes from the A. annua plant, they inserted them into bacteria and eventually into yeast. The yeast’s fermentation produced an intermediate product, artemisinic acid, which was then converted chemically into artemisinin. The artemisinin could then be used to make stable derivatives, appropriate for manufacturing several ACTs currently on the market. The entire manufacturing process takes approximately three months, less time than the botanical growing and harvesting cycle, and can be done in a controlled manufacturing setting to ensure high pharmaceutical consistency and quality.

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Springer Antimalarial Drug II: Current Antimalarial and New Drug Developments (Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology / Antimalarial Drugs)
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LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing Method Development and Validations For Antimalarial Drugs: A Strategy of Method Development and Validations For Antimalarial in Formulations
Book (LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing)
PN Evaluation of New Antimalarials. Development of New Antimalarial Drugs
Book (PN)
Nova Science Pub Inc Antimalarial Drug Research and Development (Pharmacology-Research, Safety Testing and Regulation)
Book (Nova Science Pub Inc)
LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing Method Development and Validations For Antimalarial Drugs: A Strategy of Method Development and Validations For Antimalarial in Formulations [Paperback] [2012] (Author) Almustapha Lawal, Rabiu A. Umar, Mu'azu G. Abubakar
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