Nutrigenomically-Targeted Joint Care
WellGen’s enriched black tea extract is freshly patented and poised for launch in the joint care segment.
WellGen Inc., a North Brunswick, NJ-based biotechnology company using nutrigenomics to discover and develop food ingredients for wellness products, was recently awarded a U.S. Patent for “Black Tea Extract for Prevention of Disease,” which covers, among other things, its proprietary product, WG0401, an enriched extract from black tea that has demonstrated inflammation-fighting properties for arthritis, inflammation and cancer.
According to Patricia Lucas-Schnarre, vice president, marketing, the emerging science of nutrigenomics was used to discover and develop WG0401. “WG0401 is one of the original extracts developed among the researchers in the work that they were doing setting up nutrigenomics,” she said. “The patent on the screening technologies is held by Rutgers University and exclusively licensed to WellGen.”
WG0401 black tea extract is enriched with theaflavins, a component of tea. There are four types of theaflavins. “TF2 is a combination of two of the four theaflavins,” explained Ms. Lucas-Schnarre. “During the work that was done though bioassay directed fractionation we understood that the key biological activity in inflammation was coming from TF2.”
WellGen plans to offer WG0401 as a dietary supplement and functional food ingredient aimed at promoting joint and cardiovascular health, as well as anti-aging and immune support. “When all of the work with the genome was started, most of the well-developed body of information around genes was related to cancer, so the early work that was done in this panel was tested against Caco cells, or colon cancer cells,” recalled Ms. Lucas-Schnarre. “When the patent was originally filed, it was filed for cancer, arthritis and inflammation, and it was supported by in vivo work and animal studies.”
The human studies revealed additional benefits. “Originally we were focused on muscle and joint health, which is a huge dietary supplement category, but we’ve found other benefits related to immune function, heart and circulation health. Our latest study shows some very positive trends on oxidative stress and delayed onset of muscle soreness, and of course anti-aging, based on the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) values and related gene expressions.”
The resultant joint health benefits spurred WellGen’s interest in combining WG0401 with glucosamine. “We did some consumer market research that showed one of the biggest issues with the current range of options for joint health is that there’s a lot of faith that’s involved, because consumers have to go on faith and stick with the product for many weeks before they feel the effect,” said Ms. Lucas-Schnarre. “When we did our clinical studies, we intentionally pre-dosed for seven days to determine if the effect could be seen in a shorter timeframe. We were able to show that there is a result in bio markers, from an objective perspective, that the effect is seen in a much shorter time than is reported to be seen in an ingredient like glucosamine, so it makes for a great complement. It’s a nice combination of something that has hearty science behind it, in a category where consumers are still looking for helpful options, and it has the association of the goodness of tea.” She added that the recommended dietary supplement dosage is 400mg a day.
WellGen has already contracted for the large-scale manufacture of WG0401 to provide quantities of the ingredient to the dietary supplement segment. In addition, the company recently finalized a distribution agreement with Charles Bowman and Company of Holland, MI, a supplier of nutritional ingredients and fine chemicals to the food, feed, pharmaceutical and health industries.
Ms. Lucas-Schnarre said WellGen is both open to discussion regarding the ingredient’s trade name, and is in the midst of talks with major food and beverage companies about opportunities to incorporate the ingredient into functional foods. “From a practical perspective, you’ll probably see it incorporated into dietary supplement products prior to functional foods unless somebody decides to move very rapidly because there’s so many other things that need to be done when flavor and taste is involved,” she said.
Greg Edmunds, Charles Bowman’s vice president of marketing, said the product is ready for use in certain applications. “WellGen has performed stability testing on WG0401, and finds the product to be very stable, indicating this ingredient may have application in a wide range of food products,” he said. “Investigation is underway to determine suitability in a variety of food applications, such as bars, beverages, tablet and capsule formulations.”
He also said tablets or capsules appear to be the most appropriate dose form. “These particular theaflavins are not a good ingredient to put into an aqueous mix,” he said, adding, “but I wouldn’t exclude others from wanting to do something different and unique with this ingredient.”
Product position should revolve around the unique technical development work performed by WellGen. “There are a lot of unique things that can be said about this product,” commented Mr. Edmunds. “There’s more to be said about this product than just that it’s a black tea extract, and we’re looking forward to seeing what will be done with this product and whose going to pick it up and make something out of it.”