Drug Development Global Program



The world has made tremendous progress toward eliminating malaria globally. Between 2001 and 2015, the combined efforts of country leaders, communities, PATH, and other partners saved 6.2 million lives.

Yet this devastating disease still imposes significant health challenges, and social as well as economic hardships on families and communities. In 2015 alone, an estimated 438,000 people were killed by the disease—the vast majority African children under the age of five years. Pregnant women also face substantial risks, including miscarriage and death. In addition, malaria perpetuates the cycle of poverty by reducing individual productivity, depleting scarce family and health system resources, and impeding children’s ability to learn.

Semisynthetic artemisinin aims to address market volatilities for malaria treatment

Eliminating malaria will bring enormous long-term benefits by helping to improve maternal and child health, break the cycle of poverty, and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. A key tool for doing so involves artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), which are recommended by the World Health Organization as the first-line treatment for the most deadly form of malaria. However, the world’s supply of artemisinin, the key common compound in the manufacture of ACTs, can be volatile due to supply and demand imbalances in the market. In the past, this has led to price fluctuations that complicate supply planning and risk a global shortage.

To strengthen the artemisinin market and help ensure an uninterrupted flow of ACTs to endemic regions, PATH set out to create a supplementary source of artemisinin—helping to ensure access to front-line treatments for all who need them.

This work includes developing a novel route to artemisinin. Using synthetic biology technology, PATH and partners spanning the research, biotech, and pharmaceutical sectors successfully developed and introduced semisynthetic artemisinin as a supplementary source of the key ingredient in first-line malaria drugs. Learn more »

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