Cardiff Uni research helps to fight malaria

17 February 2017

Researchers at Cardiff University have developed a cheaper and more effective way of producing compounds used to fight malaria.

The team at Cardiff University, led by Professor Rudolf Allemann, has discovered a new method to produce the compounds which they hope will make the drug accessible to some of the poorest places in the world.

The compounds sesquiterpenes are used to make artemisinin, the anti-malaria drug which won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2015.

They’re also used in treatments for cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Professor Thomas Wirth worked on the project and says while it’s not going to save lives yet, it’s a step in the right direction: “It’s very exciting, although one also has to say that we are not there yet.

“We are still on the way to pursue that goal but the first step, the first hurdle is already taken.

“We now have a good handle on making this intermediate for the drug in much larger amounts and much more rapidly than it was possible before.”

Sesquiterpenes have traditionally been time-consuming and expensive to make in a laboratory.

The compounds are very sticky and often bind to the enzymes that produce them.

By squeezing the reaction along a winding plastic tube, the Cardiff University team could separate the compound they needed from the enzyme in thousands of tiny segments.

Professor Rudolf Allemann says the research won’t just help to make medicines: “Our new method may lead to a more efficient and cost-effective production of other bioactive molecules, with applications such as fragrances, food supplements or agrochemicals for pest control.”

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