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IU Researcher Produces Cheaper Malaria Meds On A Small Scale

silas cook

Photo: Courtesy of Indiana University

Cook says one in four adults in Sub-Saharan Africa isn't working because they are infected with Malaria.

An Indiana University professor has developed a method to cut the cost of malaria treatment and reach a key goal of the World Health Organization.

Artemisinin, a key component in malaria medication, costs about $2.40 per dose.  The World Health Organization say it wants to cut that cost to 25 cents or less so it can distribute the drug more widely.

IU Professor Silas Cook says he’s come up with a way to get closer to that target price.

“What we decided to do is work on a fully synthetic version—completely synthetic starting from a compound you get from oil,” Cook says.

What Cook has done is create a new chemical compound that can be manufactured in a lab. So far, that’s the only place it’s been made and it’s on a small scale. But if it’s widely produced, it could make for a cheap, regular supply of malaria medicine.

And Cook says simply that could improve the lives of millions of people.

“One in four working adults in Sub-Saharan Africa is not working because they’re infected with malaria at any given time,” Cook says.  “That results in over $40 billion a year in lost worker productivity. By Sub-Saharan African standards, that’s much higher than most GDPs of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. So it has a tremendous economic impact. So you can potentially improve lives, you can save lives, and hopefully drag some of Sub-Saharan Africa out of poverty.”

The next step to getting the medicine on the market is to scale up test production from gram-sized to kilogram-sized batches.

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