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Manus Bio awarded $2m by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to combat malaria

The additional funding will accelerate the development of a production route for artemisinin, a key therapeutic for treating malaria

Malaria

Manus Bio has received a fourth award of $2m from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate the development of a scalable and cost-effective production route for artemisinin, a key therapeutic for treating malaria.

The $2m funding will enable the natural products biomanufacturer to begin scaling up the unique biological process it has developed towards the artemisinin precursor, dihydroartemisinic acid, to enable process simplification for large-scale, commercial manufacturing of artemisinin.

Commenting on the additional funding, Dr Christine Santos, chief technology officer at Manus Bio, said: “We are grateful for the longstanding support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on developing a sustainable and low-cost manufacturing route for artemisinin.

“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 the World Health Organization (WHO) reporting an estimated 241 million cases of malaria in 2020, and estimated 627 000 malaria deaths. It is, however, curable and preventable.

WHO recommends artemisinin or one of its derivatives formulated in combination therapies as frontline treatments for all cases of malaria, particularly for Plasmodium falciparum malaria – the most deadly malaria parasite globally and the most prevalent in Africa.

However, availability of the plant of which it is traditionally extracted from – the Artemisia annua plant or ‘sweet wormwood’ – is subject to agricultural instabilities and vulnerabilities.

Manus states that dihydroartemisinic acid can be produced using fermentation, which provides a more stable and sustainable source for making artemisinin than through agricultural extraction.

The company has already applied its BioAssemblyLine cell engineering platform to develop a fermentation-based approach for artemisinin production through the support of the foundation.

“Our aim is to complete the development process within a significantly accelerated timeframe by leveraging our experience, know-how and track record in scaling next-generation biotechnology solutions,” Santos said.

In a landmark move in the fight against malaria, GSK was awarded a contract by UNICEF for the first-ever supply of a malaria vaccine last month, with a value of up to £170m. The award will lead to 18 million doses of RTS,S/AS01 being available over the next three years, potentially saving thousands of lives every year, UNICEF reported.

Article by
Emily Kimber

1st September 2022

From: Research, Healthcare

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