Peter Leighton, CEO of Washington State-based Advana Science, told NutraIngredients-USA.com that licensing deals are expected to be signed in Q1 of 2009, with products available by the summer.
“For nutraceuticals and cognitive health there is very little out there,” said Leighton. “And no one has really addressed beta-amyloid proteins.”
The build-up of plaque from beta-amyloid deposits is associated with an increase in brain cell damage and death from oxidative stress. This is related to a loss of cognitive function and an increased risk of Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia.
An article published in 2005 in The Lancet reported that by 2040 the number of people with dementia will have risen to an enormous 81.1 million, from 24.3 million today. Currently, the direct and indirect cost of Alzheimer care is over $100 bn in the US alone.
"After 12 years of research and over 40 patents, we are excited about this natural compound that not only stops the formation of toxic protein aggregates and fibrils, but also helps minimize the damage that the body's inflammatory response causes when it unsuccessfully attempts to break up these deposits," said Leighton.
While Leighton couldn’t reveal the composition or source of the ingredient, he did say that the active molecules are of plant origin.
“Most natural herbs contain hundreds of molecules,” he said. “We identified a group of 11 or 12 with anti-amyloid protein activity and isolated them. One compound in particular is very active.”
While there is some data available from a parallel human clinical study, Leighton said that the most critical data is from animal models with transgenic mice models. Such studies have found an 82 per cent reduction of the plaque load in animals, resulting in an increase in cognitive abilities.
This data has not been published, however, he said. It is currently proprietary.
Advana is initiating discussions with potential exclusive licensees, including finished products companies.
“We’ve only spoken to two groups so far, and the response has been a little overwhelming,” he said. “The industry is ready for something with this level of science.”
NutraIngredients-USA.com has not seen any of the scientific data.
Growing interest in brain health
Nutrition and brain health, while overlooked in general, is attracting increasing levels of interest. Indeed, such is the interest in dietary approaches to improve brain health Nestlé, the world's largest food company, signaled its intention to get a head start on the competition with the signing of an agreement in November 2006 with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) to investigate the role of nutrition in cognitive function.
The agreement with the EPFL, Nestlé's largest collaboration with a university of research institute, will see the company contributing up to CHF 5 million ($ 4.48 million) every year for five years, with a review after four years to potentially extend the project further.