Its latest endeavour in this regard is a year-long study conducted together with the Western Sydney University's (WSU) National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) to assess the efficacy and bioavailability of HydroCurc in a murine model of chronic neuro-inflammation.
This comes after the NICM and Pharmako secured a grant of over A$100,000 under the Australian Government's Entrepreneurs Programme, Innovation Connections. The programme forms part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda and was designed to encourage collaboration between local businesses — particularly SMEs — and researchers.
Pharmako's co-founder and commercial director Eric Meppem told NutraIngredients-Asia: "The fact that we've secured this grant very exciting, because it recognises the science and innovation involved in our LipiSperse technology (used in HydroCurc), and also validates us as a player in Australia's complementary medicines industry.
"A lot of these grants go to pharmaceutical and IT companies, so it's great to have the complementary medicines industry also being recognised and supported by the government."
Curcumin for cognition
The upcoming study will test HydroCurc's potential to ameliorate neuro-inflammation in a dose-dependent manner, comparing its effects to that of standard curcumin.
Using a transgenic mouse model, the researchers will investigate the impact of chronic, low-grade neuro-inflammation on the brain, as well as the therapeutic effect of brain-permeable cytokine-suppressive, anti-inflammatory drugs (CSAIDs) such as curcumin.
The study will be conducted by Dr Garry Niedermayer, lecturer of pathobiology at WSU's School of Science and Health; Prof Gerald Münch, head of the Department of Pharmacology at WSU's School of Medicine; and Dr David Harman, lecturer at WSU's School of Medicine.
As chronic neuro-inflammation is a factor and promising therapeutic target in a number of degenerative and age-related brain diseases — from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to Alzheimer’s and Parksinson’s disease — evidence of HydroCurc's efficacy could see the ingredient progress into clinical trials relatively quickly.
Project investigator and NICM postdoctoral research fellow Dr Mitchell Low said, "The main aim of this study is to determine if HydroCurc will enter the brain, where its anti-inflammatory activity may have beneficial effects on diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's."
In the wider scheme of things, Meppem said, "The aim is to have a calendar of studies across the technology platform.
"We've already shown we can get curcumin into blood better than anyone else in terms of curcuminoids. Now, we want to see what we can do in terms of how it enters the brain, so we can then determine HydroCurc's ability to exert its anti-inflammatory activity on different conditions in the brain — whether they're more serious conditions like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, or general cognition and other functions.
"The primary factor is the mechanistic effect; we want to see whether we can show that once it's in the blood, it's able to also go into the brain to exert those potential benefits."
He added that Pharmako intended to conduct more clinically significant trials in as soon as possible, saying, "There are a number of ongoing and upcoming studies on HydroCurc, as well as its sister products that utilise the same technology, and we have plans to run more pharmacokinetic studies on Hyrdrocurc. Once we get good results, we will look into clinical studies on those formulations."
Meppem also said the company would be seeking government assistance for such trials, but is open to partnering with industry players as well.
"We've had such collaborations in the past with our other materials, and this time, we've had a couple of Australian and North American companies express interest, though I can't name them now.
"Some of them will have to wait till this study is complete, but they seem quite keen because of our previous pharmacokinetic study results."
He further said that the attention both Pharmako and HydroCurc had received through its recent accolades had "generated significant interest from a consumer brand perspective and from different research groups".
This was in reference to HydroCurc being named Botanical Product of the Year at the first NutraIngredients-Asia Awards last year, as well as being listed as a finalist in the Sports Ingredient of the Year category at the NutraIngredients Awards in Europe this year.
Furthermore, HydroCurc's dispersion technology, LipiSperse, was listed as a finalist in the Innovation of the Year category at the same awards. This came after its patent was approved last year by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Currently, the technology is being used in 11 different ingredients, including HydroCurc, with pharmacokinetic studies in the works for five of these ingredients.
Commercially speaking, the company is slowly expanding its customer base and product applications with HydroCurc, one of which is effervescent tablets.
Meppem said:"We're now trying to maximise what we can do because the material is generating so much interest. More people are recognising that it's not only highly bioavailable, but also that even with such a low excipient load, we are able to deliver a high dose with relative ease in terms of consumer use.
"We've had a South African company and a European company make effervescent tablets with Hyrdocurc, and an Australian company has expressed interest in doing the same.
“We'll also be conducting a joint health study soon — our objective is to conduct relevant studies to show the different benefits and applications of curcumin and HydroCurc."
At present, two studies are awaiting publication, while another four— including the NICM and joint health studies — have been planned for HydroCurc.