Fourth award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will support artemisinin research

Manus Bio – the leading biomanufacturer of natural products – has received a fourth award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a scalable production route for the potential antimalarial therapy, artemisinin.

The $2m award will enable Manus Bio to begin scaling up the unique biological process it has developed towards the key chemical intermediate, dihydroartemisinic acid. Economical and scalable access to this compound will enable process simplification for large-scale commercial manufacturing of artemisinin.

Artemisinin is an effective compound in malaria treatments. The World Health Organization recommends artemisinin or one of its derivatives formulated in combination therapies as frontline treatments for all cases of malaria.

It has traditionally been extracted from the ‘Artemisia annua’, however, availability of the plant is subject to agricultural instabilities and vulnerabilities. The artemisinin precursor, dihydroartemisinic acid, can alternatively be produced using fermentation, which provides a more stable and sustainable source for making artemisinin than through agricultural extraction.

“We are grateful for the longstanding support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on developing a sustainable and low-cost manufacturing route for artemisinin,” reflected Dr Christine Santos, chief technology officer at Manus Bio. “Ready access to this life-saving drug is such an important tool in the global fight against malaria.”

“The additional funding we have received will enable us to translate a robust technology built with our BioAssemblyLine cell factory engineering platform into a fully scaled process.”

Malaria remains one of the world’s biggest public health issues, with rising numbers of both cases and deaths globally in the last couple of years is thought to be attributed to disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.