Japanese researcher finds synthetic route to Tamiflu
Alternative production could boost bird flu drug stockpiles.
A University of Tokyo researcher says he has made a synthetic version of Tamiflu, thought to be the most effective drug against avian influenza.
The Swiss company Roche, which makes Tamiflu using a plant extract, has been unable to meet the huge demand from governments that are stockpiling the drug as avian influenza spreads.
"This will make it possible to have stable production," says Masakatsu Shibasaki, the biochemist who devised the new production method. It uses a readily accessible chemical -1,4-cyclohexadiene - instead of the plant extract. Shibasaki says the product is exactly the same as Tamiflu, and Tokyo University is beginning to negotiate with Roche over a possible collaboration. A representative from Chugai Pharmaceutical, the company's Japanese subsidiary, says that Roche is aware of Shibasaki's announcement, but that the company cannot release details of any negotiations.
Tokyo University applied for a patent on 23 February. Shibasaki will present his results at the Pharmaceutical Society of Japan's annual meeting on 28-30 March.
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