The Loom

A Natural Factory

The manuscript clock is still ticking, and so, in lieu of true blogging, let me direct your attention to another article of mine. This time it’s the cover story in the December issue of Discover. Discover chose Jay Keasling as their scientist of the year and asked me to interview him. Keasling, who directs the Berkeley Center for Synthetic Biology, is trying to get either E. coli or yeast to crank out a powerful malaria drug normally only made by the sweet wormwood plant. I had already been getting familiar with Keasling’s work, since it is a great example of the sort of work that’s being done on E coli, the subject of my book. So it was a pleasure to talk to Keasling at length about this ambitious project.

You can read the interview here.


  1. #1 malaria researcher
    December 21, 2006

    I think Jay Keasling’s work is cool and sexy, but it would be misguided to think that it will have any useful public health impact. Remember quinine – the original antimalarial – is still made from a plant (cinchona). Artemisia annua is easy to grow and the artemisinin extraction process is only a couple of steps. The price of the natural product – artemisinin – has fallen >10 fold since it was first introduced and is likely to fall more. Also the plant can be grown in malaria endemic countries – possibly supporting their economies as well as their health.

  2. #2 Steviepinhead
    December 22, 2006

    Hey, Carl, I’m sure I speak for many of “us” here when I say:

    Thanks for brightening (well, okay, in the case of some of the parasite columns, maybe “brightening” doesn’t quite capture the correct sentiment…) our year with your many marvelous biology and evolution posts! I hope you and yours enjoy a warm and wonderful holiday season! We’ll expect you back in 2007 with even more whacky and wonderful reporting from the frontiers of evolutionary science (yeah, yeah, even those parasites!).

    From Stevie (and all the Pinheads everywhere!)

New comments have been disabled.