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Funded Projects

1) Next Generation Food Supplements (NextGFS)

Qualia Pharma, a Greek pharmaceutical company, in collaboration with Cloudpharm, a Greek biotechnology startup company, and the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition Science of the Harokopio University, has initiated the development of the next generation of nutritional supplements. The design and development of nutritional supplements is now performed in a more targeted way by abandoning the logic of “all supplements for all people”. Each new product is now designed based on the demographic and psychographic characteristics of the target market and addresses specific consumer characteristics (e.g. vegetarians, elderly people, patients with special medical conditions). Companies are now focusing on less popular ingredients that have significant scientific data on health claims and potential for penetrating marketing. As far as health categories are concerned, there are now some extremely saturated categories (immune health, probiotics, etc.), directing companies to more complex situations (e.g. memory). An innovative methodology successfully implemented in the pharmaceutical industry appears to be now applicable in the field of nutritional supplements. The methodology concerns the molecular design computational chemistry approaches. Nowadays, a number of computational algorithms and techniques are available to select compounds from large databases that meet specific activity and physicochemical characteristics.

The aim of the proposed project is to implement a new methodological approach which will guide the design of a new generation of nutritional supplements. Specific objectives for the project are:

(A) the development of a platform for designing nutritional supplements through computational tools.

(B) the pilot production of a new dietary supplement with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, aiming primarily patients with osteoarthritis (OA).

(C) the implementation of a clinical trial using the new dietary supplement on volunteers with OA

2) Nanoemulsions of plant oils with moisturizing and insect repellent properties (QFytoTera)

Today, there is great public concern throughout the world about vector-borne diseases as varied as malaria, dengue fever, West Nile encephalitis, and more recently infants’ microcephaly due to Zika virus infection. Insect Repellents are considered to play an important role in the prevention of mosquito-borne diseases as they reduce substantially the frequency of contact between vectors and their human targets. Over the last fifteen years, research for new insect repellents has been directed towards natural products, responding to consumers demand for natural, pure and healthy materials. These products are considered by consumers to be safer than synthetic ones. However, the main drawback of plant products is their short protection time due to the significant volatility of the active ingredients.

Overcoming of this drawback constitutes a research challenge to be addressed by the proposed research. QFytoTera aims to create innovative plant nanoemulsions with long-lasting moisturizing and insect repellent properties for skin use.

The project’s innovation lies in the following points:

a) Innovative active ingredients. The novel insect repellent compounds to be used are originated from unexploited species of the Greek flora. These plant-derived compounds have been discovered by previous research using the innovative method of Reverse Chemical Ecology (RCE). Our compounds are up to 10 times more effective than synthetic or herbal active ingredients that are currently in the market.

b) Innovation in implementation. The use of nano- and micro-emulsifiers for entrapping plant insect repellents is innovative for this class of active compounds. Encapsulation of the active ingredients in natural nano-emulsions provides improved safety, duration and cosmetic properties. Encapsulation protects the insect repellent compound and improves its duration of action through slow release. In addition, entrapment gives desirable safety properties such as reduced skin absorption while at the same time dramatically improves the cosmetic properties of the product, for example by reducing the intense odor and greasy feeling and by moisturizing the skin.

The output of this research project will be cosmetic moisturizing products with insect repellent properties, completely natural and safe as well as more effective than existing products in the market. These products will meet consumer’s increasing need for effective and long-lasting “2 in 1” products for the prevention of diseases transmitted by insect vectors. Given that this need is not adequately addressed by competition, it represents a market opportunity.

The proposed research project concerns collaboration between three research organizations (Institute of Biology, Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Biotechnology – National Hellenic Research Foundation, Department of Entomology and Agricultural Zoology – Benaki Phytopathological Institute, Department of Pharmacy – University of Patras) and Qualia Pharma Ltd.

3) Pre-clinical Development of Innovative Neuroprotective & Neuroregenerative Synthetic Micro-neurotrophins for the Treatment of Alzheimer Disease (Dinnesmin)

The proposal is a joined R&D venture of Bionature, a Greek biotechnology spin-off of the University of Crete and Qualia Pharma, a Greek pharmaceutical company, and focuses on the pre-clinical development of new medicines against Alzheimer Disease (AD), a devastating condition affecting millions of people, with no cure so far. Bionature is the proprietary (international patents) of non-toxic, blood-brain-barrier permeable, synthetic molecules, which bind with high affinity to and activate TrkA receptors of neurotrophin Nerve Growth Factor-NGF (Microneurotrophins), exerting strong neuroprotective and neurogenic effects in vitro (cultures of various types of mouse and human neurons and neural stem cells) and in vivo (mice and rats).

The two companies join forces in this project with internationally well-established Greek academic research teams (Foundation of Research & Technology-Hellas, University of Crete/Crete-Patras and National Hellenic Research Foundation/Athens) in the field of pharmacology of neurodegenerative diseases, targeting: a) the synthesis and the expansion of the chemical library of Microneurotrophins, with new agonists for TrkB receptors of neurotrophin BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor), also strongly involved in AD pathophysiology, b) the pre-clinical evaluation of the efficacy the TrkA and TrkB Microneurotrophins in the 5xFAD transgenic mice, an experimental animal model of AD. The consortium will also complete the appropriate pre-clinical pharmacokinetic and toxicity studies of the effective Microneurotrophins in the 5xFAD-AD animals, for the filling of an Investigational New Drug Application in FDA and EMA, within the next 3 years. The two companies have initiated discussions with big pharmas for the clinical development of Microneurotrophins in AD therapy.

4) Formulation of Greek Flora derived innovative dietary supplements aiming to improve specific molecular biomarkers (Healthspan)

The dramatic increase in average human life expectancy, one of the most remarkable achievements of modern society, is inevitably connected with the development of new strategies, aiming to promote and maintain well – being, through the employment of innovative solutions and ideas for better quality of life across the age spectrum; a fact that undeniably seems to be reflected upon current global market trends.

HEALTH-SPAN project, based on the collaboration of Qualia Pharma with one of the most recognized research centers in Greece, National Hellenic Research Foundation (NHRF), suggests the development of new dietary supplements, enriched with extracts and active components derived from Greek Flora. The new product line will incorporate innovative health claims, based on great scientific achievements within the field of Biomedical Sciences, for whom is expected to elucidate underlying mechanisms of processes relevant with human aging, These include telomeres’ and telomerase discovery (Nobel Prize 2009), the discovery of the proteasome, a complex responsible for protein degradation, with a pivotal role in many of the hallmarks of aging and a promising target for therapeutic interventions and also the epigenetics, a field that studies non heritable alterations in genes’ expression. In this direction, a variety of extracts/substances derived from the Greek and Mediterranean Flora, will be tested by the NHRF, in order to assess their ability to promote well-being. The anti-aging activity of the selected extracts/ substances and their potential combinations will be initially evaluated in vitro in human cell cultures.

The results of in vitro evaluation will define the formulation of the new product, which will be further tested in vivo in healthy volunteers. The clinical trial is expected to provide the new product with credible scientific evidence in order not only to validate existing health claims about the active components, but also to create new.

5) Design and development of new formulations based on natural products as additives in contact lenses, for the treatment of microbial keratitis (CLAMiK)

The use of contact lenses increases the risk for microbial-associated adverse events for lens wearers. The main microbial ocular surface infections are bacterial conjunctivitis, blepharitis and keratitis. Bacterial conjunctivitis involves the mucous membrane of the eye, having as main causative agents in its not self-limiting forms Gram-positive microorganisms. CLAMiK aims in the design and development of new antibacterial compounds derived by either the modification of antibiotics of clinical use or non-antibiotic compounds from natural products as additives in gels from which contact lenses are made.

 Overall, CLAMiK aims in the development of new hydrogels for soft contact lens infused by the new antimicrobial compounds which can be used (a) for the development of novel contact lens with antimicrobial properties and (b) for the treatment of microbial ocular infections.

6) Smart Glove for Assessment of the Motor Condition of Patients with Neurodegenerative Diseases (SmartGlove)

The aim of SmartGlove is to develop an innovative system for the remote monitoring of motor symptoms of patients with neurodegenerative diseases (especially Parkinson’s Disease) and their automated evaluation, aiming at optimizing and individualizing the treatment of each patient. The system will consist of a smart glove, a mobPark smartphone app and a database.

The original idea for the smart glove, as well as the first prototype glove developed, won the innovation award in the MIT Health and Wellness Innovation 2013 contest. At this stage, the research team has moved on to the second improved version of SmartGlove (v2.0), as well as the original version of mobPark (v1.0), which has limited capabilities. In addition, intellectual property in Greece has been registered (intellectual property patent from OBI) as well as the application for a global copyright patent (PTC).

 Within the framework of the project, a complete version of the system will be implemented, with the implementation of the database and the mobPark application, which will be used for pilot application to patients. Then a final version of the system will be made, corrected for errors / omissions, resulting from the pilot application and the participants’ feedback. At the same time, the group will take concrete steps to commercialize the system, such as the feasibility study and the business plan.