Natural product from red seaweed brings new antiviral spray
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Marinomed Biotechnologie GmbH has been awarded the top prize in the Mercur 2008 innovation awards. This award to Marinomed honours the discovery of antiviral properties in a natural product and the rapid development of the discovery into a nasal spray for treating the common cold.
The prestigious prize, presented by the Vienna branch of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, was awarded primarily in recognition of the speed at which the biotech company succeeded in turning its discovery into a marketable product. Through close cooperation with a partner company, the firm completed this process in just two years.
Carrageenan - a natural product from red seaweed, which has many uses in the food industry - has been exhaustively characterised. Or at least, that was the thinking up until 2005, when the Austrian biotechnology company Marinomed Biotechnologie GmbH discovered that Carrageenan has far more to offer than was previously thought. Not only does the natural substance provide the nasal mucous membrane with a long-lasting moist protective film (due to its high viscosity), it also protects against infections with common cold viruses. Due to its intimate understanding of the requisite development and approval processes, it took the company just two years to secure approval for a substance based on Carrageenan and its application in an innovative spray. Thanks to a collaboration with the Austrian company Sigmapharm Arzneimittel GmbH & CoKG, this substance is now available in Austrian pharmacies in the form of a nasal spray. It is the first product in the world to target the causes of the common cold.
The judging panel for Mercur 2008, the innovation award presented by the Vienna branch of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, decided to award Marinomed its top prize, worth 10,000 Euros, primarily because of how the company managed its discovery and went on to rapidly develop it.
Andreas Grassauer, CEO of Marinomed, on receiving the award and the development of the antiviral nasal spray: “We are delighted to receive this award because it endorses our concept of learning from nature and then developing products based on our findings. This shows, yet again, that nature offers a whole host of therapeutic and prophylactic substances that have applications in medicine. The skill lies in identifying these substances, characterising them and then developing them into marketable products. Marinomed offers precisely these skills for medical indications such as respiratory infections, allergies and inflammation. Based on test platforms that we have established we were able to identify the antiviral properties of Carrageenan. Our experience in development and approval processes enabled us to deliver a marketable product within an exceptionally short timeframe”. After applying for an international patent, Marinomed decided to work with Sigmapharm Arzneimittel GmbH & CoKG to launch the nasal spray, initially on the Austrian market. The experience the company has gained on the Austrian market is now helping to strengthen its position in ongoing discussions regarding the product’s launch in other countries.
It is not by chance that Marinomed won the Mercur 2008 award for its discovery of an antiviral substance from an organism that lives in a marine environment, as Dr. Prieschl-Grassauer explains: “Given the diversity of species in the oceans, there is a whole range of substances with medical applications just waiting to be discovered beneath the waves. That?s why Marinomed first began characterising substances from the sea. We have continued to develop the test platforms that we use to create profiles of substances. Now we analyse the therapeutic potential of natural substances from a broader spectrum of sources. Our next product candidate could, for example, come from a land-based plant. As our company slogan suggests, we really do have an ocean of ideas”.
The Mercur 2008 award also stands testament to the extraordinary potential of the test platforms used by Marinomed, a company whose know-how is at the cutting edge of science and technology. Several international institutes have already approached the company with a view to commissioning it to characterise their, in some cases, comprehensive collections of potential substances from natural sources.
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