Frutarom funds research on plant's anti-viral potential
including HIV and bird flu could come forward as early as next
year, if a new research project by Frutarom and Tel Aviv University
yields positive results.
The Israeli company hopes the water based plant extract can be sold in the nutraceutical, functional food, health food and animal feed industries. If it lives up to its expectations it could mark a new departure for the firm in the area of immunity. Initial work on the process, which has not yet been named, was carried out by a team at the Tel Aviv University, and initial studies by Professor Michael Ovadia demonstrated the extract's ability to rapidly neutralize a broad range of viruses that cause infectious diseases in both humans and animal. Ovadia, who will head up future research, said the extract could target human and avian influenza, herpes (HSV-1) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1). His work caught Frutaroms's attention after a series of positive studies in animals, where researchers found the extract had the ability to serve as a vaccination agent in chicken embryos infected with Newcastle disease virus (NDV). Trials performed together with a veterinary company showed that chicken embryos can be vaccinated against the NDV virus while they are still in the egg and in so doing, significantly improve the efficiency of the vaccine's administration, increase success rates and reduce mortality. Frutarom business development manager Tali Sivin told NutraIngredients.com: "We don't know the exact mechanism [for how it neutralizes viruses] but as part of the agreement we will be funding further research. "The initial results have been excellent. The University has done lots of studies on [its affect] on viruses and there is definitely activity." Frutarom's task is to move the research out of the lab and into the industry. She added: "We are at the stages of planning human clinical studies. We are in the business of health so it is fully in line with Frutarom's plans." The company hopes to carry out human trials by the end of the year. The agreement with Ramot, a branch of Tel Aviv University, gives Frutarom an exclusive global licence to commercialise the process in order to manufacture and market the natural extract. Ramot chief executive Dr. Yehuda Niv said: "The discovery and development of this unique extract are an example of research conducted at Tel Aviv University that is both creative and leading in its field. Granting the license to Frutarom is the logical step to further develop this scientific discovery into health, biotechnology and consumer products." It has been a busy year for Frutarom, which in the past 12 months has entered into several similar deals, including one with D-Herb, of the NGT technological incubator in Nazareth, Israel, to produce and market a unique herbal extract that is used to reduce and stabilize glucose levels in diabetecs and another with Magnetika Interactive, to produce, market and sell products enriched with Omega-3 fatty acid. Frutarom president and chief executive Ori Yehudai added: "The addition of this unique, innovative product to Frutarom's varied offering of natural products will contribute to the continued realization of Frutarom's rapid growth strategy."