News FocusInfectious Diseases

Can New Chemistry Make a Malaria Drug Plentiful and Cheap?

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Science  18 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6083, pp. 798-799
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6083.798

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German chemist Peter Seeberger, head of a team of 70 researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, has found a way to produce artemisinin, the world's most important antimalaria medication, much more cheaply and easily than current methods allow. In January, Seeberger published a paper outlining how a technique called flow chemistry might make a key step in the drug's production chain more efficient. If the promise comes true, it could be a boon for the global fight against malaria, because the current price, between $0.80 and $1.20 per treatment course, is still a major factor hampering access to artemisinin drugs. Some scientists are impressed. But Seeberger's method has yet to prove its mettle.

  • * Kai Kupferschmidt is a science writer in Berlin.