Amyris’s first major milestone came in 2005 when, through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, our scientists developed technology capable of creating microbial strains to produce artemisinic acid — a precursor of artemisinin, an effective anti-malarial drug.
Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs), are recommended by the World Health Organization (“WHO”) as the primary first-line treatment for malaria and have saved thousands of lives, especially among children.
Prior to Amyris’s revolutionary breakthrough, the primary natural source for artemisinin was the Chinese Sweet Wormwood plant, which is difficult, expensive and time-consuming to cultivate and extract artemisinin from thereby preventing millions of people in the developing world from receiving critical ACTs. Through the partnership, Amyris made available artemisinic acid-producing yeast strains to Sanofi on a royalty-free basis via OneWorld Health and approximately 120 million treatments were cost effectively produced by October 2014.
Amyris continues to work to ensure access to affordable malaria treatments to save lives. In April 2016, the company announced that it was once again partnering with the Foundation via an investment from it to fund efforts focused on continued production of high quality and secure supplies of artemisinic acid and amorphadiene to be converted to artemisinin for use in ACTs.
To find out more about this major breakthrough in the original development of artemisinin by leveraging microbial engineering and process development please visit the scientific journal, Nature.