Three peer-reviewed research papers published this year by Avivagen (TSX-V:VIV) and independent collaborators, backed up with successful testing in Asia, have put the company in a position to pursue major contracts for its OxC-beta feed supplement as a natural alternative to antibiotics for the livestock industry.
“In OxC-beta, we have discovered a natural alternative technology to antibiotics that we’re now targeting to improve productivity in livestock,” president and CEO, Cameron Groome, says in an interview with BioTuesdays.com.
“Our OxC-beta has the ability to prime the innate immune system and help resolve inflammation, thereby improving growth and feed conversion efficiency, and reducing the incidence and severity of disease,” he adds.
Mr. Groome explains that OxC-beta originates from beta-carotene, which is a source of vitamin A and has many associated activities that are not easily explained. Through a process of complete oxidation, beta-carotene transforms from a single compound into OxC-beta, which is a mixture of polymer compounds that lacks vitamin A and has no anti-oxidant activity.
“We’re bringing to light how carotenoids can be completely transformed by spontaneous reaction with oxygen into natural compounds with previously undiscovered positive actions on immune function and inflammatory processes,” he contends.
According to Mr. Groome, the effects of fully-oxidized carotenoids may also explain the health benefits from diets rich in carotenoid-containing fruits and vegetables and the corresponding lack of consistent efficacy from dietary supplements of carotenoids: fruits and vegetables contain a proportion of fully-oxidized carotenoids, while supplement makers try to prevent all oxidation.
And the discovery that OxC-beta has protective health benefits comes at a time when stakeholders across the globe, including national health regulators, are looking to avoid usage of antibiotics in livestock due to concerns that such uses pose threats to public health.
“Our trials of OxC-beta appear to be gaining the attention of the livestock industry because of emerging evidence that this natural product is active at parts-per-million levels and is a cost-effective alternative to the prophylactic use of antibiotics. Its appeal is enhanced by there being no risk of creating superbugs,” he adds.
In November, Avivagen released positive preliminary results of independently conducted studies of swine and poultry in Vietnam and Korea, respectively, that demonstrated the strong commercial utility of OxC-beta use. The results indicated that OxC-beta enhances growth performance, improves feed conversion efficiency and protects against disease.
Mr. Groome points out that the positive Asian results confirm the outcomes of earlier Canadian research under livestock production conditions that are directly relevant to farmers across Asia, where some of the world’s largest feed and livestock companies are located.
“We believe the health and production improvements being observed with OxC-beta are very relevant to the livestock industry, regulators and consumers,” he adds. “And we intend to work with these constituencies to help enable OxC-beta to be widely adopted in livestock production.”
During 2014, Avivagen and its collaborators published supporting peer-reviewed articles about the chemistry of OxC-beta in the Canadian Journal of Chemistry and about the biology of OxC-beta in PLOS ONE. The American Journal of Veterinary Research also published results of a further biology study of the utility and mechanisms of OxC‐beta, conducted by independent researchers at two Canadian universities.
The veterinary research paper notes that OxC-beta promotes resolution of pathogen-induced inflammation without otherwise disrupting immune response to infection. The publication concludes that OxC-beta may represent a novel nutritional strategy that confers pro-resolution benefits in Bovine Respiratory Disease, a condition that is characterized by severe inflammation.
Mr. Groome notes that peer-reviewed publications are important to Avivagen, because they help establish the validity of the science underlying the OxC-beta product line and provide invaluable support in discussing OxC-beta with potential customers.
OxC-beta is currently available for sale in Thailand, and registrations are being pursued in Vietnam, Korea and other Asian countries.
“We can quickly turn on enough OxC-beta production to generate tens of millions of dollars of revenue,” Mr. Groome suggests. “What we need to do is complete the sales cycle with those companies that can become multimillion dollar customers. That’s what we’re doing now, following which scale-up will not be an issue.”
Having established and published the science behind OxC-beta this year, Avivagen also hopes to revitalize its fledgling companion animal (pet care) lines – Vivamune Health Chews and Oximunol Chewable Tablets – which both contain fully-oxidized carotenoids and are available in the U.S.
Vivamune is marketed for pets at all stages of life and can be given to dogs and cats as young as six weeks of age. While pets of any age can benefit from Vivamune, the chews are especially suitable for older or aging pets to help support and maintain overall health and promote quality of life.
Oximunol is a natural dietary supplement that aims to help dogs, especially mature dogs, and enhance their quality of life. Oximunol works with a dog’s own immune system to optimize overall health and well being, including healthy joint function and mobility, healthy skin and coat condition, and normal intestinal function. Oximunol is available from veterinarians in the U.S. and is currently distributed by the Animal Health division of Bayer Healthcare.
In addition to OxC-beta, Avivagen recently optioned a second technology that has the potential to be a permanent non-surgical sterilization of female dogs, cats, feral animals and possibly livestock.
Mr. Groome says the “potentially game-changing technology, in the form of a single drug administration, would be a means to replace surgical spaying and neutering for population control.” For example, there are some 90 million female cats and dogs in the U.S. alone.
Previous attempts to replace spaying have included multi-year implants and vaccinations to block female sex hormones and injection of caustic agents in the testicles of male animals, none of which has been readily embraced.
According to Mr. Groome, the technology involves a completely different approach to anything that has been tried before.
The option agreement expires in July 2015. Avivagen is currently designing and conducting in vivo proof-of-concept studies and undertaking global patenting of the invention.
Mr. Groome figures that if the company exercises the option, registration of the technology is probably five years away. “Nevertheless, this could be the biggest veterinary product in a generation.”