Interleukin Aids Alticor Product Development
ADA — For nearly five years, the majority of Interleukin Genetic’s development efforts have been under a broad strategic partnership with Alticor Inc., which has been tapping Interleukin’s intellectual property and expertise in functional genomics toward the development of personalized, over-the-counter nutritional and skin-care products.
Alticor and Interleukin have a common research interest in studying the effects that people’s genetics have on their long-term health. Interleukin has expertise in understanding how a person’s genetic makeup gives them certain predispositions to diseases such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, osteoporosis and arthritis, and Alticor has funded a number of its efforts involving the development of risk assessment tests that identify novel genetic risk factors.
Interleukin does genetic risk assessment testing for customers of Alticor who have purchased the Gensona Heart Health Genetic Test or the Gensona General Nutrition Test, said Interleukin interim CEO Tim Curran. Alticor sells the test products and Interleukin processes them. The heart health test is designed to identify gene variants associated with an increased risk of early heart attack. Alticor formulated Nutrilite IL1 Heart Health Nurigenomic Dietary Supplement for those who test positive. The product is patented and sold through Alticor’s distributor base. In a study published in Nutrition online magazine in November, those who tested “risk positive” showed a decrease in key markers of inflammation after using the Nutrilite supplement for 12 weeks, according to the study results.
The general nutrition test Interleukin processes for Alticor is designed to identify variants in six genes that have been associated with relative inefficiencies in either B vitamin metabolism or the management of oxidative stress. The test gives the individual an indication of what types of B and other vitamins they should take to improve health.
Alticor purchased 50.3 percent of the stock in Interleukin for $16 million in March 2003, and now holds nearly 60 percent of its stock. Interleukin, which is based in Waltham, Mass., opened a DNA testing laboratory in 2006 specifically to handle research and testing for Alticor subsidiaries. The lab processes samples sent in by people within the Alticor consumer chain and has the capacity to perform hundreds of thousands of tests a year.
Alticor is a significant customer, but Interleukin is also doing contract research work, Curran said. Interleukin has studies under way in Korea, Japan and China that are looking at the role of genetics in determining individual risks for early cardiovascular disease and for bone loss and related fractures in specific populations. Those studies will help Interleukin scientists to better understand how genetic variations that predict increased risk for heart attacks and osteoporosis may be influenced by dietary and environmental factors in different populations.
“Genetic testing is different for all populations,” Curran pointed out. “As Alticor looks to launch these products in the Far East, Interleukin is doing studies on populations around the world, replicating the studies we originally did in Scotland and in the United States.”
Interleukin has an ongoing research agreement with Alticor through its Access Business Group research and development division. In the pipeline are genetic tests for osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and weight management, and predisposition testing that identifies people who might be susceptible to gastric cancer — a particular problem in Japan, where H pylori bacteria is prevalent.
Although Interleukin is not a pharmaceutical company, it does things similar to a pharmaceutical company in that it uses genetics to try to produce a drug-like response or some kind of solution for a disease, Curran said.
“What we do with Alticor is use genetics with a product to provide a solution to the consumer. We also use genetics to help a clinician find a pathway to treat a patient more efficiently. In the final phase of this genetics war, we’ll use genetics to help determine what the right botanical might be for a particular population.”
Interleukin is also doing some work in the dermagenomics area for Alticor’s nutrition and beauty business. It is trying to uncover the role genetics plays in skin conditions, such as what causes skin to wrinkle early, or be too dry or too oily, or overly sensitive to ultraviolet light.
“If there are genetic risk factors that are causing those conditions, we’d like to formulate a solution and personalize it for the consumer — if it can be done,” Curran said. “Our job at Interleukin is to help predict and personalize and add an ounce of prevention. We’re not just diagnosing diseases; we’re trying to help people have a healthier lifestyle longer by solving issues such as a predisposition to osteoporosis or to something like a heart ailment. That’s kind of the Holy Grail of what we’re working on.”