The patent rights cover the use of NR for the prevention or treatment of neuropathies caused by axon degeneration. NR is a natural metabolite of niacin, or vitamin B3.
Chromadex, an Irvine, CA-based testing and consulting firm is also the developer of branded ingredients, most recently its pTeroPure synthetic version of pterostilbene. Chromadex developed the ingredient into a consumer brand, BluScience, which it recently sold to Canadian supplement marketing firm NeutriSci International.
No more finished products
As it further develops ingredients like NR from their early science stages to market-ready condition, Chromadex CEO Frank Jaksch said the company is unlikely again to take the step into finished products as it did with BluScience. BluScience took off in consumer markets, and “it was an experiment that we did that sort of ran out of control a little bit,” he said.
Axon degeneration is a common feature of many neurological ailments including mechanical, chemical or thermal injury, herpes, diabetes, ischemia or stoke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), glaucoma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, AIDS and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. It can also be a side effect of chemotherapy. Symptoms include weakness, numbness, burning and tingling, as well as pain in arms, legs and/or feet. Neuropathies affect more than 20 million of people in the US.
The license was developed from research by Jeffrey Milbrandt, M.D., PhD in the genetics department at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO. Milbrandt studied nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), of which NR is an important precursor.
"NAD biology has gained added importance in recent years due to its central role in controlling the activity of sirtuins, enzymes that are linked to regulation of metabolism as well as longevity,” Milbrandt said. “Interest is increasing in the roles of NAD biosynthetic enzymes and their substrates, such as NR, in the pathophysiology and treatment of neuropathies and neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, cancer and inflammation."
Third time's the charm
This is the third acquisition made by ChromaDex of worldwide patent rights associated with NR. In July 2012, the Company licensed from Dartmouth College exclusive rights to several patents related to NR that include rights for human uses of NR as well as methods to produce NR via fermentation of engineered yeast strains. In July 2011, ChromaDex licensed a patent from Cornell University for a method for synthesizing NR in a cost effective, commercially-viable manufacturing process for large scale production.
Jaksch said Chromadex’s IP acquisitions surrounding NR will give it a commanding position in the marketplace.
"The acquisition of the Washington University NR patent rights is an important addition to our growing patent portfolio pertaining to NR. We believe our ownership of these patent rights creates a significant and meaningful barrier to entry for would-be competitors in the NR market," he said.
NR is found naturally in trace amounts in milk and other foods and is a more potent version of Niacin (vitamin B3). Chromadex previously licensed the technology to synthesize the molecule in commercial quantities. The beneficial effects of NR in humans include increased fatty acid oxidation, mitochondrial activity, resistance to negative consequences of high-fat diets, protection against oxidative stress, prevention of peripheral neuropathy and blocking muscle degeneration.
Researchers have shown that NR enhances levels of NAD in the mitochondria of animals. NAD is arguably the most important cellular co-factor for fuel utilization and allows sugars, fats and proteins to be converted into energy. Other research on the molecule continues in the areas of neuroprotection, sirtuin activation, protection against weight gain on high fat diet and improvement of blood glucose and insulin sensitivity.
A recent study by by Weill Cornell Medical College and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland showed mice on a high-fat diet that were fed high doses of NR gained 60 percent less weight than mice eating the same high-fat diet without NR. Moreover, unlike the mice that were not fed NR, none of the NR-treated mice had indications that they were developing diabetes and they had improved energy and lower cholesterol levels.
NR was a “largely unevaluated molecule for the purpose of enhancing cellular NAD levels”, said Dr Anthony Sauve, Associate Professor of Pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College.
“Our published scientific work has verified that NR is perhaps the most potent NAD enhancing agent ever identified.”