Gilles Gagnon, President and CEO
Ceapro (TSXV:CZO) is transitioning to a new business model - from a contract manufacturer to a biopharmaceutical company - to pursue multiple growth opportunities in nutraceuticals and pharmaceuticals.
“As part of our new product development, Ceapro will develop formulations potentially allowing delivery of bioactives through different modes of administration, including oral, topical, sub-lingual, and intranasal,” Gilles Gagnon, president and CEO, says in an interview with BioTuesdays.
“We have industry leading extraction manufacturing processes to produce high value active ingredients from natural plant based sources, with a focus on oats,” he adds. “Our two value-driving active ingredients - beta glucan and avenanthramides – are used in multiple brand-name cosmetics and personal care products, and form the revenue generating base business in our personal care business.”
These household brands include Aveeno, Jergens, Coppertone, Dove, Burt’s Bees, The Body Shop, Lubriderm, Nexcare, KY products and Neutrogena.
Mr. Gagnon explains that beta glucan is a water-soluble fiber found in the cell wall of oat kernels that is highly effective in stimulating collagen synthesis. He says beta glucan’s key benefits include skin restructuring and wound healing; replenishing and protecting skin’s moisture barrier; reducing fine lines and wrinkles to decrease visible signs of aging; and potential reduction of bad cholesterol (LDL) and/or heart disease risk.
“Ceapro was first company to demonstrate that beta glucan can be used as a delivery system because it can reach the dermal layer of skin,” he contends, referring to the layer of skin under the epidermis, which contains tough connective tissue.
Avenanthramides are a group of polyphenol compounds found exclusively in oats. According to Mr. Gagnon, they contain antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties that provide relief for a host of skin conditions, such as eczema, chicken pox and insect bites.
Mr. Gagnon says that in cosmeceuticals, avenanthramides have demonstrated significant improvements in erythema symptoms in subjects with mild to moderate atopic dermatitis, or eczema. Johnson & Johnson, for example, has replaced cortisone with avenanthramides in one of its Aveeno line of skin care products, he adds.
“Ceapro is the only company in the world producing the only commercial natural avenanthramide product,” he contends, adding that avenanthramides also have potential benefits in controlling inflammation-based disorders.
Mr. Gagnon says Ceapro’s 2017 acquisition of the Juvente line of cosmeceuticals products was an “important step in our strategic market diversification business plan of moving closer to the customer.” Juvente utilizes Ceapro’s two active ingredients: beta glucan and avenanthramides.
“While we are targeting several markets with Juvente to bring energy back to aging skin; repair structural skin components, especially for burn victims; and provide long lasting hydration to decrease fine lines and wrinkles while improving skin health, the Juvente line of products will mostly be used for the development of topical/transdermal delivery systems using Ceapro’s proprietary new chemical complexes, leveraging our game changing PGX technology, Mr. Gagnon offers.
Ceapro’s initial foray into diversifying its business model includes developing a powder formulation of beta glucan plus an energy booster, co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10), into a functional drink; a beta glucan formulation to reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) and/or the risk of heart disease; and an avenanthramide-based functional food to alleviate exercise-induced inflammation.
Mr. Gagnon says the company has demonstrated the first water-soluble formulation of CoQ10 using its pressurized gas expanded (PGX) technology, a novel spray drying technique for processing water-soluble biopolymers. “The platform can produce numerous morphologies of biopolymers, ranging from fine fibers to granular powder, which are highly water soluble and stable,” he points out.
The company has published results in peer-reviewed journals that confirmed the bioavailability of a water-soluble chemical complex of CoQ10 beta glucan, which differentiates itself from competing functional drinks. “All that remains is partnering, hopefully by the end of 2019 if we can get the right deal, to scale up production for sales,” he suggests.
Mr. Gagnon says it is well known that people who eat oatmeal can reduce their bad cholesterol. Using the company PGX technology, he says Ceapro has designed high and medium molecular weight formulations of beta glucan.
The first clinical study of the company’s potential cholesterol-lowering pill as an add-on therapy to cholesterol-lowering statins in subjects with hyperlipidemia now is recruiting patients at 11 sites in Canada as part of a collaboration with the Montreal Heart Institute. Mr. Gagnon explains that the study involves three sets of patients, with 66 treatment and 22 placebo subjects in each group, receiving three different doses of beta glucan.
The primary endpoint of the 18-to 24-month double blind, placebo-controlled study is the change in LDL-cholesterol after 12 weeks.
Ceapro and its collaborators at the University of Minnesota have demonstrated in bioavailability and bio-efficacy studies that low and high doses of avenanthramides can significantly reduce inflammation biomarkers in blood. Study results were presented at the 2018 American Society of Nutrition conference, with further data to be presented in a poster at the American Sports Medicine conference in Orlando in May 2019.
Mr. Gagnon points out that in addition to PGX, the company’s enabling technologies include an ethanol-based extraction manufacturing process that can produce commercial scale quantities of active ingredients, and a proprietary drying technology to produce commercial scale quantities of pharma grade tablets of phenolic-based compounds.
“Our strategy is focused on strengthening our base cosmeceuticals business and expanding into multiple growth markets,” he points out, adding that Ceapro’s enabling technologies have “broad utility in functional drinks, powders and pills.”
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