In March Alticor purchased 50.3 percent of the stock in Interleukin Genetics LLC and connected with the emerging field of nutritional genomics, or nutrigenomics — the study of the interrelationships between human nutrition and genetic variation in health and disease.
Interleukin Genetics, a research company based in Waltham, Mass., applies functional genomics toward the development of diagnostic and therapeutic products to treat inflammation. Alticor intends to tap Interleukin’s intellectual property and expertise in genomics to develop personalized, over-the-counter nutritional and skin care products.
It’s Alticor’s forward-looking strategy that once again placed the company among the Business Journal’s top 10 Newsmaker of the Year finalists. On Monday, the award went to DeVos Place.
“When we looked at this company and some of the research they’ve done — particularly in nutrition and nutrigenomics — it’s something that we think is at the cutting edge of where nutrition is going to lead,” Alticor Chairman Steve Van Andel told the Business Journal.
“It’s technology we think we can use to help develop some very specific and customized products that will expand our nutrition line toward custom nutrition. Frankly, we’re in the process of figuring out just how personalized it can be right now.”
Gene expression profiling helps scientists uncover clues as to what diseases a person may be predisposed to and is at risk of developing at some point in life, said Alticor President Doug DeVos.
Alticor’s goal is to develop the “ideal” personalized diet for individual genetic profiles.
“With nutrition, you can start to supplement and you can start to address those issues before the disease manifests itself,” DeVos explained. “We think this could be just a huge side. But it’s very early in the game and this research is developing quickly.”
The company always has its eyes open to the future, said Beto Guajardo, Alticor’s vice president of strategic planning. Guajardo also is one of three Alticor representatives on Interleukin’s board of directors.
“We now know that the most personalized approach to developing nutrition and skin care products for an individual is to look at their DNA and develop products that would be best suited for their unique qualities.”
He said Alticor scoured the biotech world for companies that had made advances and had protected positions in their genetic research and intellectual property. Alticor compared the technology strengths and weaknesses of about 30 companies before choosing Interleukin.
Interleukin Genetics’ core technology focuses on the gene cluster that has a direct impact on the human body’s inflammation response.
“Extensive research has proven that inflammation — how a body responds to injury — is a critical determinant of many of the common chronic diseases that compromise a person’s health in their mid- to late years,” Guajardo explained.
Although inflammation is generally thought of as a protective response, he explained, many people regularly produce an excess of inflammatory chemicals, which over the years fosters the development of chronic diseases. According to Guajardo, researchers have confirmed that excess inflammation in the body is a major determinant of heart attacks, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease, and also is known for the role it plays in skin aging, cancer, obesity, gum disease, asthma, arthritis and complications of diabetes.
The Interleukin alliance also is expected to grow the company’s presence in “cosmeceuticals,” or over-the-counter skin care products that have both cosmetic and functional benefits.
“New products may include genetic testing services for premature skin aging, new ingredients in our cosmeceuticals that could modulate the effects of such skin-aging factors, and personalized skin care products.”
Guajardo said many people have variations in their genes that give them a life-long tendency to excess inflammation.
“These gene variations are easily detected with Interleukin Genetics’ proprietary genetic laboratory tests. Select nutritional and skin care products can help the body remain healthy despite this tendency.
“We can, therefore, identify healthy people who have a genetic tendency to increased risk for chronic disease later in life and provide them with proprietary nutrient and skin care products that, if taken regularly, may help maintain health and reduce or delay some of the complications of aging and chronic disease.”
The $16 million Interleukin Genetics stock acquisition last March was done under the auspices of Pyxis Innovations, a division of Alticor that creates new products, services and businesses to help grow the parent company. Some of its initiatives are undertaken through joint ventures with other companies.