Commercial Production of Semi-Synthetic Artemisinin

New Drug Approvals

STR1

Figure 1. Production of artemisinic acid or β-farnesene by engineered yeast. The sesquiterpene alkenes β-farnesene and amorphadiene are both derived from FPP (farnesyl diphosphate) by the action of specific enzymes introduced from plants: amorphadiene synthase (ADS) generates amorphadiene and β-farnesene synthase (FS) generates β-farnesene. Production strains express either ADS or FS, not both. Oxidation of amorphadiene to artemisinic acid is accomplished by the action of five plant enzymes expressed in the engineered yeast.17 Conversion of purified artemisinic acid to artemisinin is accomplished by in vitro organic chemistry. Isoprenoid production strains make little ethanol.

The antimalarial drug artemisinin and the specialty chemical β-farnesene are examples of natural product isoprenoids that can help solve global challenges, but whose usage has previously been limited by supply and cost impediments. This review describes the path to commercial production of these compounds utilizing fermentation of engineered yeast. Development of commercially viable yeast strains was a…

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