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The next-gen nutraceuticals are upon us. Genomics and biotechnology are current buzzwords, and natural product industry innovators have the opportunity to create new products using these technologies.
Houghton developed nutritional products from broccoli and other fruits and vegetables. These are processed to extract active molecules in quantities that are large enough to have a significant impact on the human body. The quantities of active molecules in raw fruits and vegetables are rarely large enough to be of immediate therapeutic value to the body.
The products she developed are said to impact the biomarkers in human cells. The product triggers the genes to either up-regulate or down-regulate a positive or negative action, as the case may be. Cell Logic has developed all its next-gen nutraceutical products based on this principle of nutrigenomics.
She aggregated scientific evidence to support the claimed medicinal impact of these products. She followed with a human trial. Houghton explained that these trials validate the efficacy of the nutraceutical products.
During trials with the broccoli product, some adverse side effects on the body were observed. This is expected. At the core, every product, organic or inorganic, is composed of molecules. Even though there is a prevalent belief among natural product enthusiasts that these do not have side effects, the facts do not support this belief.
Side effects, though, should not take away from the merit of Cell Logic’s nutrigenomics products. They are a step forward for supplement precision products.
Nutrigenomics can be called an offshoot of the science of genomics. Even before the full sequencing of the DNA was completed in 2003, scientists understood that genes determined human characteristics. We know that genes trigger many ailments.
It soon became apparent that some drugs were ineffective in some patients and highly effective in others. This was attributed to the action of the genes. Scientists started mapping genes and linking these to individual-specific therapeutic efforts to understand this phenomenon. Thus began precision or individualized medicine.
Diagnostic tests have made it possible to identify biomarkers. These are often located in/on the genes, although they can also reside outside DNA. Medication directed at biomarkers could help up-regulate or down-regulate a health condition. As understanding of the role of biomarkers increased, new drug therapies were developed.
According to the 2016 keynote address at the Personalized Medicine Coalition (PMC) State of Personalized Medicine Luncheon Address, over 140 targeted therapies have been developed by the pharmaceutical industry. These have all been cleared by FDA and are being used in treating many life-threatening diseases like cancer, etc.
However, unlike pharmaceutical products, these next-gen nutraceutical products are yet to be approved as medicine by FDA or any similar internationally recognized regulator. They are still regarded as nutrition supplements. The general healthcare sector often ignores nutritional supplements. Houghton attributed this lack of enthusiasm to a lack of training and appreciation of the value of nutrigenomics by the physician community.
Why is it that there are no unicorns in the natural products space? This question has been agitating my mind for some time. I looked at Cell Logic closely to see if I could identify something preventing this phenomenon’s emergence in this industry.
Certain comparisons probably will hint at the reasons for this state of affairs in the industry. Founders of tech startup companies that become unicorns were not just great innovators but aggressive business people. Even a small team with a company created in a garage would be composed of people with varying and business complementary skills.
On the other hand, companies such as Cell Logic and others creating innovative products in the natural products space were individual-centric. To make a business impact, one must look beyond oneself. There appeared to be a lack of will to build institutional mechanisms to help take innovation to the next stage.
Until that happens, it will not be science-based product manufacturers who will be leaders, but the raw material ingredient suppliers from Asia and elsewhere or product distributors who will rule the roost. There is an urgent need for next-gen nutraceutical companies to take a look at their business models.