Shikimic acid is a key intermediate for the synthesis of the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu®). Shikimic acid can be produced via chemical synthesis, microbial fermentation and extraction from certain plants. An alternative production route is via biotransformation of the more readily available quinic acid. Much of the current supply of shikimic acid is sourced from the seeds of Chinese star anise (Illicium verum). Supply from star anise seeds has experienced difficulties and is susceptible to vagaries of weather. Star anise tree takes around six-years from planting to bear fruit, but remains productive for long. Extraction and purification from seeds are expensive. Production via fermentation is increasing. Other production methods are too expensive, or insufficiently developed. In the future, production in recombinant microorganisms via fermentation may become established as the preferred route. Methods for producing shikimic acid are reviewed.
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