NEW YORK (AP) — Shares of Amyris Inc. rose Thursday after Amyris' partner, French drugmaker Sanofi, started large-scale production of a malaria treatment using technology Amyris developed.
Sanofi said it is beginning large-scale production of synthetic artemisinin, a key ingredient in malaria therapies. Artemisinin is derived from a wildflower called sweet wormwood, and it is the only effective medicine now widely used to cure malaria. Amyris said it can be difficult to find and create high-quality medication using the plant. The company created a type of yeast that could produce more a concentrated form of the drug's precursor, artemisinic acid.
Amyris uses genetically modified microorganisms — mainly yeast — to make products for a variety of markets including specialty chemicals, fuels and fragrances. The company licensed its technology to Sanofi in 2008 for use in making synthetic artemisinin. Sanofi plans to make the medicine available at low cost and Amyris won't get royalties on sales of the medication, but the news could be seen as a milestone for the company.
Malaria is spread by mosquitoes. Although the disease is treatable, it kills more than 650,000 people every year. The World Health Organization says about 90 percent of malaria deaths happen in Africa.
Shares of Amyris picked up 17 cents, or 5.9 percent, to $3.04 in afternoon trading.