NEW YORK, Dec. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- The world has been on alert since 2003 that the H5N1 virus, commonly known as Avian flu, could be the cause of the next flu pandemic. While the number of human deaths is still very low, fatalities this year have risen 74 percent over last year, according to World Health Organization data(1); and a recent study conducted by research teams at Johns Hopkins University and Ben-Gurion University stated that only an estimated 14 percent of the world's population could be vaccinated within a year of a pandemic's onset. Equally disturbing, the same study found that it could take a decade to produce enough of the antiviral drug oseltamivir (i.e., Tamiflu) to treat just 20 percent of the world's population(2).
Recognizing the critical need for an alternative treatment, HerbalScience, a Singapore-based company dedicated to applying advanced science and technology to the production of botanical medicines and nutraceuticals, began intensive research into creating a new antiviral compound based on its unique Elder Berry extract. After rigorous testing by a team of virologists, microbiologists, and biochemists in the United States and Singapore, the results are confirmed -- and HerbalScience is poised to bring to market a safe, effective, and low-cost treatment for both common flu and the potentially devastating bird flu.
One of the nation's leading influenza experts, Dr. Gillian Air, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, who has made key discoveries on influenza enzymes that mediate infection, says in her peer review of the Influenza study, "There is a critical need for new anti-influenza drugs and the Elder Berry extract shows activity."
The new extract, called NuHerbal ViraBloc(TM) will carry a virologist-verified label and will be available over-the-counter nationwide beginning in January 2007. Sold as a lozenge, it will cost approximately $3-$5 per day, as compared to Tamiflu, which costs about $32 a day.
"For centuries, certain herbs and botanicals have been known to have medicinal qualities, but it is only with modern science that we are now able to analyze how and why they are effective, and -- with our proprietary extraction technology -- to create standardized, optimized formulations for use as new medicines," said Robert T. Gow, HerbalScience's founder and chairman.
"Not only can the HerbalScience technology extract a plant's phytochemicals, which are the bioactive nutrient substances proven to have a beneficial effect on human health," he continued, "but our technology can also, for the first time, create herbal medicines that have a consistent quality and reliable content of the phytochemicals from batch to batch and dose to dose - a crucial factor for their use in reliably and effectively treating diseases and other medical conditions."
The development of its new antiviral NuHerbal ViraBloc comes about five years after HerbalScience began its research into technology that would enable the company to standardize the chemical profile of any selected botanical in order to deliver proven botanical medicines in consistently effective, safe, and reliable doses. To achieve its goals, the company recruited top researchers in the areas of botanical chemistry and toxicity, as well as leading experts in supercritical CO2 and affinity absorbent extraction technologies, methods used for extracting a plant's phytochemicals. To date, the company has filed over 35 patents as a result of its research and development.
By early 2005, the company had developed an advanced, proprietary, and environmentally friendly technology that combines enhanced supercritical CO2 and affinity absorbent extraction -- a technology that is able to extract pharmaceutical-grade phytochemicals from botanicals and produce a consistent and reliable chemical "fingerprint" for each and every dose. HerbalScience scientists also developed a process that enables a botanical's beneficial chemical compounds to be enhanced and concentrated while removing any harmful compounds like heavy metals and pesticides. The resulting consistent chemical profile maintains the natural synergy of a plant's chemical makeup while raising its medicinal effectiveness -- with no dangerous side effects.
Applying that technology to Elder Berry became a priority for HerbalScience in light of increasing global concern about bird flu, the scarcity of antiviral drugs, and drawbacks to use of some pharmaceuticals, including possible dangerous side effects as well as incidences of viral resistance to the drugs.
"Elder Berry's antiviral characteristics have been documented empirically for centuries, but our tests of HerbalScience's proprietary extract have enabled us to scientifically identify the bioactives responsible for antiviral activity, and to determine how the mixtures of natural chemistries present in Elder Berry extracts function as antivirals, a feature termed mode-of-action," said Randall S. Alberte, Ph.D., professor and director of biotechnology at Florida Gulf Coast University, who assembled the team of research scientists conducting the efficacy tests of the Elder Berry extract in preventing and combating various strains of influenza virus.
"Our research team used methods, technologies, and procedures that are standardly employed in the pharmaceutical industry to assess the HerbalScience extract's antiviral activities," he continued. "We were able to demonstrate its effectiveness in both inhibiting the virus from entry into animal and human cells and effectively blocking it from reproducing in the body."
"Our assays demonstrated that HerbalScience's proprietary Elder Berry extract is highly effective in blocking influenza infection in an animal cell line, and this blocking is strictly dose-dependent," said Sharon Isern, Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, and the virologist chosen to lead the experiments. "The HerbalScience Elder Berry extract functions by preventing the virus from binding to and entering target cells, suggesting that it would be an effective flu preventative. In addition, the result was consistently and materially superior to existing antivirals."
Added Dr. Alberte, "Perhaps most exciting is the fact that the mode-of-action of HerbalScience's Elder Berry extract is not strain-specific -- meaning it is proving to be effective against other influenza viruses and the Dengue virus."
The testing conducted by the research team was fast-tracked by use of a DART (Direct Analysis in Real Time) mass spectrometer - only one of five DART machines in the United States, the others of which are in use by government agencies. Dr. Alberte, who had previously held leadership positions in the Biological Science & Technology Program of the Navy's Office of Naval Research, provided HerbalScience access to the machine due to the critical importance of research into an effective preventative for Avian flu. The world's most advanced chemical analysis equipment, the DART is able to verify the existence, amounts, and concentration of an extract's hundreds or thousands of individual chemicals, and provides rapid and accurate analysis of plant chemistry, location of a plant's bioactives, and comparison to other substances.
In addition to Drs. Alberte and Isern, the team of virologists, biochemists, and microbiologists testing HerbalScience's Elder Berry extract includes Scott Michael, Ph.D. in Chemistry, and Jennifer Dolan, Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology. Drs. Isern and Michael are both affiliated with the Biotechnology Research Group at Florida Gulf Coast University; Dr. Dolan is currently a research associate at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.
"Influenza and bird flu are huge problems for the world population, so the verification of the efficacy of our Elder Berry extract as a safe treatment and preventative, with no known side effects, is enormously exciting," said Mr. Gow. "And in order to assure that we can produce sufficient quantities of the extract, we have located and secured the feedstock of the world's largest source of the base botanical -- currently in amounts equal to 120 million doses - and have next year's crop already under contract."
Double-blind human clinical tests on NuHerbal ViraBloc have been contracted and will be conducted in the near future. In addition to its Elder Berry extract, HerbalScience is researching and developing additional proprietary botanical compounds for a variety of other illnesses and conditions. Among the botanical medicines expected to be announced in 2007 are effective treatments for Arthritis, Type II Diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease.
HerbalScience is a privately-held life sciences company with headquarters in Singapore and offices in Naples, Florida. HerbalScience is engaged in the discovery, development, manufacture, and marketing of proprietary botanical compounds for human health in the U.S. and international markets. The company has prominent alliances with prestigious university laboratories and prominent researchers in the U.S., including Dr. Randall Alberte, Dr. Paul Sanberg, Dr. Paula Bickford, and Dr. George Sypert, as well as research institutions in China, including Nankai University, Zhejiang University, and China Pharmaceutical University. For more information, contact HerbalScience at firstname.lastname@example.org or log on to the Web site at http://www.herbalsciencegroup.com.
(1) Tony Pugh, "Deadly Bird Flu Not Forgotten by U.S. Health Officials,"
Oct. 19, 2006, McClatchy Newspapers.
(2) Maggie Fox, "Governments Still Dither on Bird Flu, Study Finds," Oct.
17, 2006, Reuters.