|Tuesday, 19 September 2006Kayt Davies|
IF THERE'S an ASX-listed biotech company with a history that reads like a Dostoevski novel, it's Solagran. Combine the rigour of nearly 50 clinical trials involving some 5,700 patients for just one of its 15 'Bioeffectives', with a history intertwined with the Russian forests, and the story starts to emerge.
The 'complex but fascinating' theme continues when you start investigating its intellectual property. Not only does it have the rights to a vast catalogue of therapeutic candidates, but the Bioeffectives themselves are convoluted multiple molecule compounds, derived from green tree foliage and processed with a proprietary technology.
Melbourne-based executive director Denis Kilroy is aware that Solagran's history, and the multiple applications that have been demonstrated for each of the Bioeffectives, work both for and against the company in terms of its credibility in the minds of local investors.
He said the company is combating this by partnering with Australian institutions. A trial is currently underway at Melbourne-based Swinburne University with Bioeffective R as part of Solagran's investigation of the ability of that substance to prevent and treat neurodegenerative disorders. Bioeffective A is already listed as a complementary medicine substance by the TGA after an evaluation process that involved replicating toxicology studies completed in the 1980s.
Solagran is going through a busy time with positive results from a human clinical trial of Bioeffective A on gastritis announced last week, and preparations underway for the launch of a range of Bioeffective B sauna, wellbeing and sports products in Europe and Australia later this month.
The main focus of Solagran's research effort over the past few years, however, has been the use of Bioeffective R (Ropren) in the treatment of both chronic liver disease and neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease. The company has now completed its submission to the Russian Ministry of Health for inclusion of Ropren in the Russian Pharmacopoeia.
Solagran is named after Professor Fyodor Solodky and Dr Asney Agranat who, in the 1930s, pioneered Forest Biochemistry at the St Petersburg Forest Technical Academy. In 1933, they isolated Bioeffective A, the first in the Bioeffectives family.
In the 1940s during WWII, Bioeffective A was approved for wide-scale use as an anti-infective and wound healer by special order of the Russian Surgeon General.
A water-based version of Bioeffective A, rich in vitamins and trace elements, and 125g of special bread developed by the academy were rationed to the population of St Petersburg during the 900-day blockade of the city, helping save many thousands from scurvy and starvation.
Over the next decades, between the 1950s and the 1990s, new Bioeffectives were developed and tested in Russian and European institutions for medical, cosmetic, agricultural and veterinary applications. Several Bioeffectives were entered into the Russian and Latvian Pharmacopoeias and used on a national scale.
In 1995, Solagran International was formed to commercialise the technology and fund the ongoing R&D effort. In 1998 ownership of all intellectual property pertaining to the Bioeffectives was transferred from the academy to Solagran and in 2003 Solagran listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.
Today, the ongoing Bioeffectives research program totals more than 3 million PhD man-hours of research, and according to Solagran it's arguably the largest-ever botanicals research program.
According to Kilroy, there will be more news from Solagran emerging over the next few weeks and months as more trial data comes in, progress is made on the regulatory front in Russia, and the rollout of the Bioeffective B products continues.
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