Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Green technology to boost production of malaria ‘wonder drug’

New technologies that make the large-scale extraction of a natural antimalarial ‘wonder drug’ both cheaper and greener are to be developed and trialled in a new European effort.

Since it was first extracted from the herb Sweet Wormwood (Artemisia annua) by Chinese scientists in the 1980s, artemisinin has proven to be a potent anti-malarial treatment.

Most patients treated with Artemisinin-based Combination Treatments (ACTs) show clinical improvement within 24 hours.

However, large-scale production of artemisinin drugs, which are used as part of a combination therapy to avoid development of resistance by malaria parasites, has so far relied on extraction technology based on the petroleum derived hexane - a toxic and potentially explosive substance.

... more about:
»Artemisia »Artemisinin »Malaria »annua »hexane »solvent

In a search for a better extraction system, a team of chemical engineers from the University of Bath (UK) and a specialist UK business, FSC Development Services Ltd, were commissioned (in 2005) by the non-profit Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and the Dutch Government to evaluate a range of new technologies that could replace hexane extraction, and make large-scale production both cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

In research published in the Journal of Natural Products, Dr Alexei Lapkin from the University’s Department of Chemical Engineering highlights three extraction processes that can compete with hexane extraction economically, as well as being better for the environment.

Now, using a £500,000 grant from the Dutch Government through MMV, some of these technologies will be demonstrated and tested over the next 12 months by a consortium of European companies and universities.

“Increased production of Artemisia annua is now happening in many countries around the world, but if we are to reduce the costs of the final drugs we need to increase yield through higher yielding varieties and introduce new, more efficient, safer and more environmentally friendly extraction systems,” said Dr Lapkin.

“The intention for this project is to build a small-scale demonstrator unit in Bath and prove its viability by extracting artemisinin from Artemisia annua plants grown in different countries and regions.

“The project will also explore purification methods of raw extracts to obtain material of good enough quality for pharmaceutical companies to buy for further processing into drug treatments.

“Our focus is on driving down the cost of extraction to help make this ‘wonder drug’ more readily available to the people who need it.”

Artemisinin is extracted from the Artemisia annua plant using a solvent which helps separate the different parts of the plant. The raw artemisinin is then purified to produce the final drug.

The most common solvent used in the current extraction process is hexane, an alkane hydrocarbon produced from crude oil that is both toxic and explosive, making it damaging to the environment and expensive to handle safely.

The research team examined alternative extraction technologies using either supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2), hydrofluorocarbon HFC-134a, ionic liquids (ILs) or ethanol as alternative solvents. In this initial study they used data provided by technology developers in the UK, and compared it with the known data for hexane extraction.

They found that the technologies using scCO2, HFC and ILs, all of which are non-flammable solvents, gave faster extraction times and a more complete extraction of the useful substances in the leaf.

These solvents are also considerably safer, with no risk of explosions, and were much greener, having a lower environmental impact in use, and offering the potential for biodegradability after use.

Ionic liquid and HFC-134a technologies in particular showed considerable promise, and the analysis suggests that they could compete with hexane extraction in terms of cost-effectiveness.

Over the next nine months, a demonstrator unit using HFC-134a will be built at the University of Bath in collaboration with Ineos Fluor (UK). Bioniqs Ltd, a spin-off company from University of York (UK), will continue their work on ionic liquids extraction, and University of Bremen (Germany) will be testing extraction with another widely used solvent, ethanol.

The whole project is being co-ordinated by FSC Development Services Ltd, which is based in Gloucestershire (UK).

“MMV is pleased to support this project even though it is not our traditional line of work, as the focus is purely on technology rather than developing new drugs or treatments,” said Dr Ian Bathurst, Director of Drug Discovery & Technology at MMV.

“Developing technology that makes the extraction process as efficient and cost-effective as possible makes the mass production of artemisinin economically, environmentally and socially viable. This will have a significant impact on the new ACTs we are developing.”

Malcom Cutler, head of FSC Development Services Ltd., said: “This project is not about profit for companies; tackling malaria is not a business, but a challenge we must do everything we can to overcome.”

As the plasmodium parasite which causes malaria is able to mutate and develop resistance to the drugs used against it, it is important to have a variety of treatments available and to continue developing new medicines.

Andrew McLaughlin | alfa
Further information:

Further reports about: Artemisia Artemisinin Malaria annua hexane solvent

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>