BER-Funded Scientist Profiled in The Scientist for Metabolic Engineering Work


The March 28, 2005, issue of The Scientist profiles Dr. Jay Keasling of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley for designing and reengineering the common bacterium E. coli to produce arteminesin, a powerful anti-malarial compound. Arteminesin is a highly effective anti malarial drug that is expensive and difficult to make in conventional ways. Keasling, with support (in part) from the Office of Biological and Environmental Research’s Genomics:GTL program, has been studying how to design and reengineer a bacterium’s natural abilities to metabolize nutrients into various products; in this way, he can engineer a bacterial cell into a micro-manufacturing plant for a valuable product that the cell, left to its own devices, would not be able to make. Given the impact of malaria on less developed countries, (1.5 million deaths annually), the Keasling approach not only could benefit people in areas endemic with malaria but may also be useful at enabling microbial production of a variety of other useful and valuable compounds including those with direct GTL relevance. Recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided $42.6 million towards a public-private partnership, built around Keasling’s progress, to develop bacterially synthesized arteminesin and following commercialization and regulatory clearance, get it to clinical application where it is needed most.