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Scientist finds way to make most powerful anti-malaria drug for pennies per dose.

 
 
DrewDad
 
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 08:32 am
And then makes sure no one can perform price gouging.

Jay Keasling - Saving the World, One Molecule at a Time

Quote:
...

Keasling's first target was malaria"a disease that kills more than 1 million people every year, mostly infants and young children from the world's poorest regions. With a 90 percent cure rate, artemisinin is easily the most powerful antimalaria drug on the market. But extracting the clunky molecule from the sweet-wormwood plant that produces it is slow and expensive. In fact, the medication is so scarce that most of the world's 3 million malaria patients are dying for want of it.

Keasling's team inserted wormwood genes into a simple yeast cell, and then reprogrammed some of that cell's own genes to create a microorganism that can spin sugar into artemisinin. Growing this microbe in a broth of glucose can produce volumes of the precious drug in mere hours, reducing the manufacturing costs from dollars to pennies per dose.

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Type: Discussion • Score: 4 • Views: 1,599 • Replies: 17
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 08:38 am
@DrewDad,
Wow!

Fascinating stuff.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 09:29 am
Uhm . . . how is this going to ensure there will be no price-gouging?
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 09:53 am
@Setanta,
That's what the article claims. I did not include that in the portion I quoted.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 09:58 am
@DrewDad,
OK, i didn't take the time to read the article (because i didn't have the time), i'll check it out later.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 10:05 am
@Setanta,
Quote:
To make sure that patients actually saw those savings, Keasling worked with university officials and pharmaceutical giants alike to ensure that no one, including him, could profit from his newly patented system. "It's not that we're against companies making money," he says. "We just don't want them to gouge the poor." In March, Sanofi-Aventis signed on to scale up production of Keasling's customized yeast cells. The company expects to start churning out artemisinin by late 2010; it will sell the drug at cost.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 10:09 am
@sozobe,
Cool . . . thanks, Boss . . . i'll still read the article later . . .
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 10:33 am
Awesome!

I think you'll see more and more drugs - and other products! - produced in this matter. Bacteria are just little factories after all, tell 'em what to do, give them some sugar and let it rip!

Cycloptichorn
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 12:32 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
This is terrific.
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 03:14 pm
Hmmm.... I'm pretty sure we have many really cheap medications (preventative or curative), not neccessarily for malaria, that don't get into the bodies of the worlds' poorest populations. Why would this one be different?
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 03:41 pm
@littlek,
I would imagine that a dose going from dollars to pennies would make a tremendous difference in how much of the drug could be purchased.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 04:28 pm
@littlek,
I doubt that any meds in the United States are cheap, relative to what it costs pharma here to manufacture them. We're prime suckers as far as the big pharma is concerned. As for why the world's poorest populations would get this med, cheap or otherwise, that would be because malaria is doesn't occur with any regularity in wealthy countries.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 04:45 pm
I wonder what the patent status for the medicine is?
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 05:07 pm
I'm talking about medications sold in poor nations, like those in Africa and South Asia where malaria is rampant. We had a chart in middle school social studies that would have been a good way to show what I mean. Cheap drugs are great, but they have to get to those who need them.

I guess I'm in a jaded mood.

Quote:
A box of 60 Combivir tablets sells for £342.58 in Britain. Under an agreement with GSK, the drug is sold in Africa at its cost price of £32.70 a box, allowing smugglers to sell at a discount in Europe but still make profits of hundreds of pounds on each pack. The racketeers stood to make more than £100 on each pack of Epivir and almost £500 on each pack of Trizivir.

Detectives found that drugs returned from Senegal had been sold on by Africa Aids Africa (AAA), a Senegalese agency set up by Abdoulaye Wade, the president, and funded by Western governments. Latife Gueye, the head of AAA, who was appointed by the president, admitted selling the drugs to European businessmen.

0 Replies
 
NickFun
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Feb, 2009 11:02 pm
The problem is, that gene may escape and make its way into the environment thus affecting every yeast cell. During mutation it could develop into a pathogen that will wipe out humanity. But I'm not worried, that hardly ever happens!
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sat 28 Feb, 2009 05:24 am
@NickFun,
So, you honestly believe that individual genes are mobile, and can survive in the ambient atmosphere?



Wanna buy a bridge?
NickFun
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Mar, 2009 01:20 am
@Setanta,
Transgenic corn has already spread into wild corn n Mexico. There's no doubt it can and does!
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Sun 1 Mar, 2009 06:19 am
@NickFun,
One wonders what you mean by "wild corn." There is teosinte, the grass from which maize was originally derived. Certainly plants which rely upon pollination can be temorarily affected, but the genetic alteration won't "take," won't continue to reproduce itself unless it confers an advantage on the plant which is affected. If that happens, and the new genetic information is preserved, there is no reason to consider it anything but natural. You're making this sound like some kind of Frankenstein's monster. It seems to me that your attitude partakes strongly of hysteria.
0 Replies
 
 

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