Aphios Corporation Awarded Fast-Track SBIR Grant from NIH for Improved St. John’s Wort Product
November 03, 1999
Woburn, MA — Aphios Corporation has been awarded a Fast-Track SBIR grant from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The grant is entitled "Method for Making an Improved St. John's Wort Product."

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a bushy perennial with yellow flowers which blooms around St. John the Baptist's day in June. An oil extract of the fresh flowers contains liposoluble napthodianthrones, such as hypericin and hyperforin. These compounds are competitive monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI), and are thought to be responsible for St. John's reputation as an effective antidepressant. Products, such as St. John's Wort, are however being manufactured without any significant regard to the standardization, reproducibility and validity of the manufacturing process, or the content and quality of the active ingredients.

Aphios Corporation is improving the quality and manufacturing of St. John's Wort by utilizing supercritical fluids and near-critical fluids with or without polar cosolvents such as alcohols (SuperFluids™). These fluids are gases such as carbon dioxide which, when compressed, exhibit enhanced thermodynamic properties that can be "fine-tuned" for rapid and selective extraction of bioactive molecules. SuperFluids™ provide the opportunity for more rigorous standardization of nutraceuticals and potential herbal Rx products such as St. John's Wort and for achieving formulations which may not be possible with conventional organic phase manufacturing. Such products are also free of toxic organic solvents, environmentally friendly and truly "green."

In this Fast-Track program, Aphios Corporation is collaborating with Paracelsian, Inc., Ithaca, NY which has developed functional assays for herbs, botanicals and other dietary supplements that are the basis of its BioFIT™ Quality Assurance Program (US Patent Pending). To date, through BioFIT™ in vivo serotonin re-uptake inhibition assay, a SuperFluids™ product (US Patent Pending) has been developed. The product is significantly more potent than marketed hyperforin-based products. Research has also established that the product is relatively stable in terms of bioactivity and chemistry.

St. John's Wort extracts are sold in pharmacies throughout Europe, and are in fact among the most popular OTC "phytomedicines" sold in EEC countries. Among the most widely prescribed antidepressants in the United States are Prozac® from Eli Lilly, Zoloft® from Pfizer and Paxil® from SmithKline Beecham. The worldwide sales of the top-selling antidepressants are approximately $4.8 billion. As people experience adverse side-effects from prescription antidepressants, there has been a concomitant rise in the use of St. John's Wort and other herbs as natural antidepressants. Several herbal formulations, purporting to be natural substitutes for Prozac®, are already being marketed.

Aphios Corporation is a privately held research and development company developing research tools and industrial processes for the enhanced discovery, manufacturing, delivery and safety of naturally derived and genetically engineered therapeutics for the treatment of cancer, AIDS, and other infectious diseases in a cost-effective manner. The Company is profiled in a recent interview on WallStreetInterview.com.