Biotech Updates

GM Chicory Brings Hope to African Malaria Patients

May 11, 2007

Approximately, 40% of the world’s population, mostly living in the world’s poorest countries, is at risk of malaria. Every year, more than 500 million people become severely ill with malaria. Most cases and deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa. Artemisinin is a basic raw material used in ACTs (Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies).
The compound is isolated from the shrub Artemisia annua, long used in traditional Chinese medicine. However, artemisinin is an expensive plant extract, so for the drug to benefit patients in poorer countries the price of production must drop sharply.

Dafra Pharma, a Belgian pharmaceutical company, has commissioned Plant Research International (PRI) to begin new research into optimizing the production method of artemisinin via genetically modified chicory plants. The aim of the research is to realize inexpensive, large-scale production of artemisinin under controllable conditions.

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