Hybrid antimalarial plant given Chinese approval

Plant is believed to be the first instance of Chinese registration for an Artemisia annua variety bred outside China

A new hybrid plant used in antimalarial drug production, developed by scientists at the University of York’s Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), is now registered as a new variety in China.

Developed through CNAP’s Artemisia Research Project, the plant is believed to be the first instance of Chinese registration for an Artemisia annua variety bred outside China. Since China is the world’s largest grower of Artemisia, the plant can now contribute even more to the global production of the antimalarial drug artemisinin.

Artemisia annua, also known as Sweet Wormwood, originates from Asia and has been used in China to treat fevers for more than 2000 years. CNAP’s project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, used fast-track plant breeding to develop many new hybrids, which then underwent rigorous field-trialling in Africa and Asia. A single robust F1 hybrid was selected for its excellent biomass features and ability to produce good concentrations of artemisinin in its leaves.

With Chinese registration taking two years of extensive field trials against known Chinese varieties, the plant was grown commercially in Africa for three years under the name of Hyb8001r. Now, Hyb8001r has been given a new Chinese name. Pronounced YaoKe JiaHao YiHao, the first word sounds like York and means ‘medicine people’; the other words mean ‘good Artemisia variety’ and ‘number one in the series’.

'The ability to sell and distribute seeds in China demonstrates the wide impact of York’s excellent research,' said Professor Ian Graham, Head of the University of York’s Department of Biology. 'I am pleased that we have reached this milestone which will enable us to work more closely with Chinese growers to deliver this vitally important antimalarial medicine.'

Seed from the new variety is produced in partnership with East-West Seed, an international seed company that will market the new variety in China.