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China’s Nobel winning drug also made in UP

Published : Nov 21, 2015, 2:36 am IST
Updated : Nov 21, 2015, 2:36 am IST

CIMAP has been working on the anti-malaria drug for 2 decades

CIMAP has been working on the anti-malaria drug for 2 decades

The Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) in Lucknow had been working extensively on an anti-malaria drug, Artimisinin, for the past two-and-a-half decades. Last month, it was China that got the Nobel Prize for the drug invention.

A.K. Singh, ex-chief scientist and consultant (technology and business development), CIMAP, said that despite being awarded twice by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for its research and development work on an anti-malarial drug, Artimisinin, CIMAP missed the international recognition.

However, a paper written jointly by directors of CIMAP and CDRI, the two CSIR labs in Lucknow, will be published in an Indian journal detailing the laboratories’ research and development and role of Indian scientists in developing effective and affordable cure for malaria.

Though scientists at CIMAP refused to comment on the Nobel miss, they claimed CIMAP had developed a high-yielding variety of Artimisinin which has 80 to 90 times more content than the previous varieties, thus cutting down the cost of the anti-malaria drug eight to 10 times. “Prima facie, the Chinese invention was neither very effective nor cheap. CIMAP has made the malarial cure affordable too,” CIMAP director A.K. Tripathi said.

CIMAP has worked extensively on Artimisinin, an extract from the Artimisia annua plant, since early 1980s and discovered an affordable and effective drug against malaria in collaboration with the Central Drug Research Institute. Artimisia annua (a wormwood shrub) is not a native plant variety of India and grows abundantly in China.

The agro-technology developed by CIMAP, however, has made it a commonly grown variety. In 1984, then director of CDRI, who was also on the WHO panel on malaria, Dr Nityanand, brought seeds of Artimisia to grow in India. CIMAP grew the plant at its farms in Jammu and Kashmir and it was later acclimatised to grow in Lucknow.

CIMAP developed the agro-technology and processing to extract Artimisinin from the plant, while CDRI made the medical (drug) discovery.

Location: India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow