LPC is a molecule derived from phosphatidylcholine (PC), which is abundant Aker’s base krill oil raw material. The twist with the new ingredient is that Aker’s raw material features PC that already has EPA and DHA attached, so cleaving off a fatty acid group to make LPC is a more straightforward process. Up to now the only way LPC loaded up with fatty acids could be produced is via highly cost prohibitive synthetic chemical assembly, so only tiny amounts for research have been available, the company said.
Seminal 2014 paper
The whole idea stems from a 2014 paper published in the prestigious journal Nature that elucidated the LPC transport mechanism for getting DHA across the blood brain barrier. As part of this process the LPC backbone loaded up with the fatty acids joins with a specific protein transporter designated as Mfsd2a.
“That paper was seminal when it came out,” said Dr Andreas Storsve, PhD, Aker’s R&D director for human products. “The transport mechanism across the blood brain barrier wasn’t known at the time, and that paper identified the primary point of entry of EPA and primarily DHA into the brain.”
Storsve said Aker’s own data on the new ingredient, which Aker CEO Matts Johansen said will be published soon, shows a distinct absorption advantage for the new formulation. Storsve said a similar transport pathway operates in the retina and might be a factor in other organ tissues as well.
Developing a proprietary process
Johansen said his company quickly saw that the paper, which was written by a group based in Singapore, was going to open up new avenues. The company sent a team to meet with the researchers in Singapore shortly after that first paper was published. Johansen said that Aker’s krill oil was seen as a perfect starting point for developing a new ingredient, which the company has branded as LYSOVETA.
While the path was clear to go from point A, starting with Aker’s base krill oil, to point B ending with the new ingredient, that doesn’t mean it was easy, Johansen said.
“This has been six years in the making. Both from understanding the potential to developing the process,” he said.
Johansen said that protracted development process has enabled Aker to build up a robust IP portfolio around the new ingredient. The next step of that process for the US market is to finalize and submit the dossier for self-affirmed GRAS, and the New Dietary Ingredient Notification. Aker will pursue regulatory certifications in other markets as well. Johansen said he expects to have the regulatory documentation in place by the end of 2022 when the ingredient will be launched at commercial scale.
As far as production is concerned, Johansen said the company has already established significant production capabilities and is currently establishing production at commercial scale at their facility in Houston. The company started retrofitting that facility to process krill oil for supplements and research uses before the new opportunity opened up, Johansen said. Prior to opening the Houston location, Aker was marketing an ingredient that was produced with an extraction partner.
“When we started building our plant in Houston we didn’t know about this,” Johansen said. “But we deliberately saved space for new innovations.”
Opening the door for more research
Johansen said Aker can now make the new ingredient available free of charge to research groups and has quantities on hand for formulation partners to start their own R&D process. That will accelerate the research in this area, which Johansen said has taken off even with the high cost of research material up to now. Since that first paper an additional 70 papers have been published, he said.
Melanie Plourde, a professor in the Université de Sherbrooke, Department of Medicine in Canada, is one of the researchers excited by the new possibilities.
“What if, for cognitive decline, we just have missed the target because the supplement/drug formulations were not appropriately designed to target the brain? My team works on the metabolism of OM3 during aging and in a population that are more at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease: the APOE4 carriers. We believe that using new OM3 formulation, like L-PC, can direct plasma DHA into brain compartments and be more readily available for the brain, thereby increasing brain DHA concentrations and improving cognition. My team and I are excited to see this new OM3 formulation on the market. We think the new L-PC will be more efficient at targeting the brain and would hence require lower doses than fish oil doses currently tested in clinical trial,” she said.
Big market opportunity
The market opportunity for the ingredient is big, Johansen said. Degenerative brain disorders are on the rise across the globe. Aker cited data from market research firm Grand View Research that predicts the global market brain health dietary supplements to grow from $6.7 billion in 2019 to $10.8 billion. The eye health supplement market is slated to grow from $1.5 billion to $2.1 billion.
“We believe the message is that EPA and DHA is important for all life stages. This new ingredient could even go into infant formula. It’s about finding the right partners,” Johansen said.
“But we are still 100% committed to our krill business. This is coming as a second leg. We’re not trying to compete in the omega-3s market as such,” he added.