Greener Drugs: The Role of Algae in Pharmaceutical Development

(DGIwire) – Marine algae are receiving growing attention as sources of bioactive compounds and are being considered for the pharmaceutical industry in drug development. A 2016 article in the Journal of Pharmaceutics and Nanotechnology outlined some of the potential applications of this burgeoning field.

Different types of algae possess distinct potential uses in medicine. As noted in the JPN article, various research studies have sought to examine algae’s potential antioxidant properties and antiviral properties, and even their potential anticancer activity. For example, the polyphenols known as phlorotannins found in marine algae have been found to be effective antioxidants.

In addition to their potential uses in pharmaceuticals, the JPN article reports that algae-based drugs may be manufactured at a fraction of the cost involved in today’s manufacturing methods.

“I believe that as the pharmaceutical industry ramps up its study of algae, it will come to embrace these organisms’ potential as active ingredients in future drugs,” says Andrew Dahl, President and CEO of ZIVO Bioscience, a biotech/agtech R&D company engaged in the commercialization of nutritional and medicinal products derived from proprietary algal strains. “The benefits of algae make them a natural choice—in both senses of the word—for improved drugs.”

Adapting isolates of ZIVO’s proprietary algal strains for pharmaceutical applications is a near-term goal of the company, as it conducts proof-of-concept studies to combat mastitis in dairy cows in a collaboration with global animal health pharmaceutical company Zoetis, formerly Pfizer Animal Health, in the summer of 2017. Bovine mastitis, or inflammation of the udder, prevents milk production and is typically caused by bacterial infections, many of which can be treated with antibiotics. However, the widespread pre-emptive use of antibiotics over the years has caused the FDA to clamp down on how and when antibiotic treatment is appropriate. The company intends to position its drug candidates as immune modulators to displace the pre-emptive use of antibiotics.

In prior years, the company has also investigated the use of its algal isolates to lower cholesterol in transgenic hamsters with induced hypercholesterolemia, and the chemo-protective properties exhibited in ex vivo canine joint tissue experiments.

The company has chosen to focus on the immune-modulating and anti-inflammatory properties of its proprietary isolates for both animal and eventually, human applications.

“This is an exciting time to be investigating the potential applications of algae, and we are very grateful to be in a position to supply high-value products derived from our algal strains to a wide range of potential partners in a variety of different fields, including pharmaceuticals,” adds Dahl.

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