Alticor-Interleukin Partnership Forges Ahead

April 29, 2005
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ADA — Interleukin Genetics LLC announced Monday it had received its Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments certificate of registration for its DNA clinical laboratory. That’s good news for Alticor Inc., which owns 50.3 percent of stock in the Waltham, Mass.-based research company.

In March 2003 Alticor purchased 50.3 percent of the stock in Interleukin for $16 million, and automatically moved into the emerging field of nutritional genomics, or nutrigenomics — the study of the interrelationships between human nutrition and genetic variation in health and disease. Interleukin applies functional genomics toward the development of risk assessment tests, pharmacogenetic tests, and nutritional and therapeutic products based on the genetic variations in people.

Alticor is tapping Interleukin’s intellectual property and expertise in genomics to develop “personalized” over-the-counter nutritional and skin-care products. The company’s stance is that the most personalized approach to developing nutrition and skin-care products for individuals is to look at their DNA and develop products best suited for their individual qualities.

Alticor and Interleukin have a common research interest in studying the effects that people’s genetics have on their long-term health, said George Calvert, vice president of research and development for Alticor’s Access Business Group subsidiary.

“Interleukin has particular expertise in understanding how a person’s genetic makeup gives them certain predispositions to diseases like cardiovascular disease, asthma, osteoporosis and arthritis,” Calvert said. “We’ve been executing research agreements with Interleukin to understand this genetic link and develop products that can help address a person’s need for personalized nutrition to better meet their individual needs.

“If we can offer them a product solution years in advance, then maybe we can help keep them in a state of wellness for a longer period of time. If we can develop a test to predict risks and products to help mitigate that risk, then we believe that that meets a real consumer demand for personalized nutrition — nutrition that we can help predict that they’ll need in the future.”

Extensive research has proven that inflammation — the body’s response to injury — is a critical determinant of many of the common chronic diseases that afflict people as they grow older.

Under its agreement with Alticor, Interleukin began developing risk assessment tests for a host of illnesses. Last year Access Business Group placed an order for a “significant volume” of tests, according to Interleukin.

Interleukin built the new DNA testing laboratory over the past year specifically to handle research and testing for Alticor subsidiaries, said CEO Philip Reilly, M.D., J.D. The lab processes samples sent in by people within the Alticor consumer chain, Reilly said.

“Basically our first test that we’re developing is a DNA-based risk assessment test to identify whether or not an individual has a risk factor for heart disease that he otherwise might not be aware of,” Reilly explained. “It relates to the whole relationship between inflammation and heart disease that we have studied. Then Alticor is working on a nutritional supplement that will help counter that risk.”

In March, Interleukin reported it had signed two new research agreements with Access Business Group, one to conduct research to develop risk assessment tests for the Asian market and the other to undertake exploratory research to identify new product opportunities.

Reilly said achieving the lab’s CLIA certification registration was a milestone in the Alticor-Interleukin alliance. When the DNA lab achieved CLIA certification, Access Business Group extended Interleukin a $2 million pre-payment for future tests. Reilly said the lab has the capacity to perform hundreds of thousands of tests a year.

“This is really pretty cutting-edge research for not just the nutritional area but even the pharmaceutical area,” Calvert said, adding that the company hopes it’s getting closer to a product launch.

“Product launch involves two things,” Reilly said. “It’s a genetic DNA test and it’s a nutritional supplement. We handle the test and Alticor handles the supplement. The ‘package’ is launched when Alticor has the new consumer product ready to go.”

Upon announcing the Interleukin stock purchase in 2003, Alticor Chairman Steve Van Andel said the big attraction to Interleukin was the research the firm had done, particularly in nutrition and nutrigenomics, because that’s where the future of nutrition was headed.

“Its technology we think we can use to help develop some very specific and customized products that will expand our nutrition line toward custom nutrition,” Van Andel said at the time.

The Interleukin alliance also is expected to grow Alticor’s presence in “cosmeceuticals,” or over-the-counter skin-care products that have both cosmetic and functional benefits.

New products could include genetic testing services for premature skin aging, new ingredients in cosmeceuticals that could modulate the effects of skin-aging factors and personalized skin-care products.    

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