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Biothera adds to Wellmune knowledge base with method of action study

By Hank Schultz , 19-Feb-2014
Last updated on 20-Feb-2014 at 15:32 GMT

Biothera, a company long known for an extensive research program backing both its nutraceutical and pharmaceutical ingredients derived from bakers yeast, has completed a mode of action study on its Wellmune dietary supplement ingedient. 

Wellmune WGP is a beta 1/3,1/6 glucan that has long been studied and marketed for its immune boosting properties.  Biothera has extensive data on the ingredient’s method of action that show that fragments of Wellmune digested and released by macrophages bind to the CR3 receptor sites on neutrophils, priming these cells for disease-fighting activity without over-boosting the immune system. 

Different ingredient forms

But more data is always better, said Don Cox, senior vice president of healthcare R&D for Biothera. So the company compared the mode of action of different forms of the ingredient—a soluble and a particulate form—in research accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Glycobiology .

“The study further elucidates the method of action,” Cox told NutraIngredients-USA. “It gives us a little deeper understanding of how Wellmune works. We have the dispersable and the soluble forms; we wanted to know if both worked the same way. It showed that both forms were immune active, but the signalling pathway was a little different.”

The study introduced the two forms to human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and measured the “oxidative burst”—part of the immune response—in these cells.  The authors concluded that, “The study results support the hypothesis that human PBMC, specifically monocytes, utilize distinct receptors and overlapping, but distinct, signaling pathways for the oxidative burst in response to challenge by different physical forms of β-glucan.”

Pharma mindset informs research

Biothera is well along in develoment of an anticancer drug also derived from yeast. The comprehensive understanding of method of action required for drug development has also informed the process of understanding how the company’s nutraceutical ingredients work. To date, between the pharamceutical and healthcare divisions of the company, Biothera has spent more than $300 million in reasearch, Cox said.

“This study was really just pure science. There are a lot of unknowns when you do this kind of research. Were there other receptors involved?  Now we have a better understanding of the different types of signalling that occurs,” he said.

“It’s not something that we are going to make a big deal about. It’s not as glamorous as a clincal study that demonstrates an effect in the human body,” Cox said.

Nevertheless, it is part of the company’s commitment to ongoing discovery and research, Cox said. 

“I wouldn’t say it would necessarily lead to a new product at this point, but it might. It’s part of the development of our overall technology. It’s not just about Wellmune. We always have mechanisms of action studies ongoing along with biomarker studies and clinical studies, he said.

Source: Glycobiology
2014, epub ahead of print, doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwu005
“Differential regulation of oxidative burst by distinct β-glucan-binding receptors and signaling pathways in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells

Authors: N.Bose et al

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