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Synthetic Biology Leads to Malaria Breakthrough

The field of synthetic biology has generated both hopes and fears. Today, score one for the hopes. The drug company Sanofi has announced the start of large-scale production of a partially synthetic version of artemisinin, a chemical essential to making a leading drug to fight malaria. The breakthrough is the result of work by Jay D. Keasling, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, who figured out a way to take the necessary genes from the wormwood plant, implant them into a strain of E. coli bacteria, and grow large quantities of artemisinin.

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