Xenomis-Harvard polyphenol partnership could lengthen life

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Wine

Xenomis has announced the signing of an exclusive licensing
agreement with Harvard Medical School for the development of
stressed plant polyphenol products geared towards longevity.

This is the second announcement this week involving nutritional companies and Harvard University. BASF this week also announced an agreement to jointly establish the BASF Advanced Research Initiative with the institution. Such agreements allow nutraceutical companies to draw on the extensive technical and research capabilities of academic institutions, while providing the institutions with funding for research. "Fundamental research at major research universities such as Harvard can have a major impact on therapeutic approaches to common physical problems, but it requires both world class science and strong partnerships with performance-oriented technology transfer organizations, academic scientists and industry,''​ said Joseph Maroon, director of research at Xenomis and professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The Xenomis-Harvard agreement is specifically for plant-related research. According to the company, plants stressed by infections or adverse environmental conditions produce specific molecules as part of their own survival response. The company is looking to tailor this response to the human body as well. "Xenomis, using a proprietary extraction process, is able to extract and concentrate a range of xenohormetic molecules including resveratrol from stressed plants like red wine grapes,''​ said Maroon. "We look forward to seeing the results of independently conducted laboratory analyses as well as animal and human clinical trials.'' ​Harvard will receive downstream royalties and equity as part of the agreement. Xenomis was founded in 2006, with the purpose of developing and marketing nutraceutical products based upon the stressed plant polyphenols it refers to as xeno factors. Among these are phytoalexins - stress-induced polyphenol molecules taken from red grape skins that Xenomis says can stimulate defensive functions. A Harvard Medical School study published in 2006 in the journal Nature​, supports the hypothesis that the activation of a genetically controlled stress response can prolong lifespan in animals. The Harvard researchers found that compounds produced by stressed plants, when ingested by mice, can activate similar genetic pathways and physiological responses to those seen in animals fed a lower calorie diet. The researchers referred to this as 'xenohormesis'. Xenomis is looking to bring about such positive effect in humans and eventually market these benefits as products. "Our priority areas of interest include longevity as well as other health related benefits including sports endurance and memory enhancement,"​ said Maroon. The Harvard/BASF agreement covers interdisciplinary research, with funding amounting to $20m over five years. BASF will provide direct funding to Harvard researchers. The research will span nutritional ingredients, but also expand into its fine chemicals interests.

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