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Malaria drug made in yeast causes market ferment

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Synthetic biology delivers combination therapies into an uncertain market. “It’s been a dream project — but it’s been a long dream,” says Jay Keasling, a biochemical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley. Seven years ago, he and his team genetically engineered yeast to produce artemisinic acid (D.-K. Ro et al. Nature 440, 940–943; 2006), a precursor to the best malaria treatments available: artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs). Synthetic biology, Keasling hoped, could produce the drug more cheaply and reliably than natural sources, benefiting the roughly 200 million people infected with malaria each year.

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