Malaria cells

Malaria is a preventable, curable disease that claims the lives of more than a million people a year. In Africa alone, malaria causes 20% of all childhood deaths, killing 2,000 children every day. Malaria patients can be treated with highly effective Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs), but cultivating and extracting artemisinin, which comes from the Chinese Sweet Wormwood plant, is expensive and time consuming. Lack of access to this vital compound prevents millions of people in the developing world from receiving critical ACTs.

Researchers at UC Berkeley pioneered a new technology to create microbial strains that produce artemisinic acid, a precursor of artemisinin, paving the way for an affordable and highly effective anti-malarial therapeutic. Their work was accomplished in collaboration with the Berkeley Lab, the California Institute of Quantitative Biomedical Research (QB3), and Amyris Biotechnologies, Inc.  The research team worked under a $42.6 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the Institute for OneWorld Health, a San Francisco-based nonprofit pharmaceutical company, and was led by bioengineer Jay Keasling. Learn more about Jay Keasling’s research.