• New Delhi
  • 9 April 2014
  • Features
  • By Dr Dharam Chand Jain

“Traditional knowledge can benefit drug development”

Outlining the need for utilization of natural products for tackling various diseases, Dr D C Jain, general manager, Green Technology Department, Ipca Laboratories, explains the example of anti-malarial drug development from Artemisinin

artemisinin

Artemisia annua L. is native to China and commonly known as sweet wormwood and qinghao. Artemisinin is an antimalarial natural product principally obtained from the leaves of this plant.

About author: Dr D C Jain, general manager, Green Technology Department, Ipca Laboratories, is a renowned expert on Artemisinin, holds twenty three patents and has also published many papers on anti-malarials.

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Natural products can be a tremendous primary source for modern drug discovery. However, the isolation and purification of the target product from plants represents one of most challenging tasks, which require the knowledge both at the molecular level and at the process level. On the one hand, there might be hundreds of compounds extracts from plants together with the target product: on the other hand, many of the compounds contained in the crude extracts may have similar chemical structures as the target compound. Therefore, it is a quite complex and challenging task to develop and synthesize the production process to produce the final target compound from the raw materials. One needs to identify the necessary unit operations and interconnect and integrate them in a systematic way to synthesize the whole production process. At the time, one needs to optimize the production process at both the unit level for the unit operations and the system level for the Whole process system to pursue the multi-objective optimized solution. The proposed synthesis method was applied to the design and development of the separation process for the isolation and purification of artemisinin which is the most effective antimalarial drug from the medicinal herb Artemisia annua.

Artemisia annua L. is native to China and commonly known as sweet wormwood and qinghao. Artemisinin is an antimalarial natural product principally obtained from the leaves of this plant. Artemisinin based ACTs are recommended by WHO for the treatment of complicated malaria; therefore, the world demand of this wonder natural product is increasing every year. Artemisinin is chemically a sequiterpene lactone with an endo-peroxide group. This endo-peroxide is responsible for its therapeutic group activity.

As artemisinin content in the plant was very low and variable and, therefore, its commercial production was a long cherished desire for scientists.Resaerchers have tried to establish its laboratory synthesis but due to tedious multiple step synthesis this molecule remained a difficult challenge to synthetic chemists around the world.

Therefore, feasible commercial natural production is yet to achieve. While synthetic chemists were searching for the cost-effective paths of its synthesis. Scientists were also working on enhancement of Artemisinin content through techniques of plant breeding coupled with biotechnology. Finally content of Artemisinin was achieved in the range 0.8 to 1.2 % w/w in commercial crops. Ipca has started commercial production in India from 2006.Ipca requirement for Artemisinin 40-50 MT per year for antimalarial drug production but we are fully dependent from outside sourcing.
Ipca has produced 2000 MT of Artemisia leaves in 2012-2013 and will target to achieve 3000-3500 MT in 2013-2014. We are producing natural artemisinin and imparting employment in rural peoples of India, and reduced dependency to outside world.

 

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