Updated: Fri. Mar. 18 2011 4:33 PM ET
A group of Saskatoon researchers has reached a major breakthrough in the fight against Malaria.
Scientists with the National Research Council in Saskatoon have helped create genetically engineered yeast
that will be used to make an effective anti-malaria drug artemisinin.
Gary Goodyear, Minster of State for Science and Technology, was at the University of Saskatchewan Friday for
Goodyear suggests the development is on par with Banting and Best's discovery of Insulin.
"This is literally a breakthrough discovery for treatment of malaria," Goodyear said.
"This is a brand new discovery using a plant secretion that we can now produce in a very reliable, stable,
and inexpensive way."
Artemisinin is derived from the Sweet Wormwood plant. The discovery allows the medication to be mass
produced and at a lower cost.
NRC scientist Dr. Patrick Covello discovered the critical genes that have been used. French drug maker
Sanofi-aventis will use the genes to "reprogram" yeast. Instead of producing ethanol, the yeast will produce
the drug-containing compound.
"So they've introduced these genes into yeast, and they ferment it much like beer is fermented, and then
extract the compound they're interested in -- the artemesinin related compound,' Covello said in an
"Basically with our genes they've come close to doubling the yield [of artemisinin]."
With help from the Bill and Linda Gates foundation to increase commercial production, the pills will be
distributed to malaria threatened areas in Africa and Asia on a break-even basis starting sometime in 2012.
(Used without permission so I hope they don't mind)