Pronutria, a company based on the mining of an extensive protein database to uncover pharmacologically active nutrients, is moving forward in its development plan with the beginning of two clinical trials on is lead product candidates and the closing of a $12.25 million financing deal with will fund the ongoing development phase.
The company’s development platform, branded as ProNutrien, is based on identifying proteins in the human diet that, when delivered in pure form, provide a preferred balance of amino acids that elicit a pharmacological effect. The technology is based on what the company calls the “precise and reproducible delivery of specific amino acids.”
By looking at the proteins found in whole and processed foods, the company’s team of scientists has over teh last couple of years amassed a vast protein datatbase that provides the building blocks for the company’s potenital products, said CEO Bob Connelly.
“Things they were looking at were, what are the mixes of proteins in these foods? How abundant are they? And then they were combining that information with a lot of public data on amino acids, which is just a lot of hard work,” Connelly told NutraIngredients-USA.
The team eventually assembled a library which the company claims now extends to more than a billion protein nutrients. In addition, the company developed proprietary approaches to select product candidates with pharmacological benefits, physical characteristics and safety profiles tailored to specific medical needs and population segments branded under the ProNutrien name.
Pronutria's two clinical studies are evaluating its lead ProNutrein candidates for beneficial effects on muscle and metabolism in age appropriate healthy volunteers. In relevant preclinical models of muscle growth and thermogenesis, these candidates have demonstrated substantial efficacy, the company said. Pronutria is evaluating these lead programs for development as nutritional supplements and medical foods, and is building off published, positive clinical amino acid data. The company expects to complete these trials by the end of the second quarter of 2014.
"These trials demonstrate our unique ability to advance multiple lead ProNutrein candidates from product conception to human data in multiple indications in less than a year in a highly capital efficient manner," Connelly said.
Mining specific proteins out of the diet is all fine and good, but what if there are not enough of a given protein in the source material? It’s a similar question that hovers over botanical ingredient discovery—that might be an interesting molecule, but how are you going to get enough of it if there is only a tiny amount in the parent plant?
Pronutia’s answer is after identifying what they are after, they will make it, not extract it. But they’ll make it in such a way as to avoid having to chemically synthesize the molecules by using a microbial process already used for enzyme manufacture.
“The organisms we are growing are used to make food enzymes. These are GRAS organisms,” Connelly said. Some major food companies have looked at the technology and are comfortable with it, he said.
“ ‘Natural’ is a loaded word and there are a lot of different definitions. But I can say that (this technology) is not genetically modified,” Connelly said.
Pronutria was founded in 2011 by Flagship VentureLabs, the innovation foundry of Flagship Ventures. The $12.25 million Series B financing was led by Flagship and includes private investors. Pronutria expects to fund its activities through a combination of partnerships and investment. The company has raised $23 million to date.