[Updated and clarified. 8/12/10, 7:25 pm Eastern time. See below.] Cambridge, MA-based Sirtris Pharmaceuticals made international headlines over the past few years for developing drugs based on the anti-aging effects of the red wine chemical resveratrol. Now that the company has been part of London-based drug giant GlaxoSmithKline for more than two years, former Sirtris executives have begun selling their own resveratrol supplements online through their Boston nonprofit, the Healthy Lifespan Institute, Xconomy has learned.
Michelle Dipp, a Sirtris-turned-Glaxo executive, confirmed that the nonprofit that she and former Sirtris CEO Christoph Westphal co-founded last year has started online sales of resveratrol. Dipp leads the effort on the off hours when she isn’t doing her main job as senior vice president of Glaxo’s Center of Excellence for External Drug Discovery.
While the group is charging $540 for a one-year supply of resveratrol, Dipp says that the nonprofit is selling the supplements for cost and is not profiting from the sales. The revenues are covering the manufacturing, distribution, and other functions, all of which have been outsourced, she says.
The nonprofit’s supplements are made the same way as the formulation of resveratrol that Sirtris initially developed as a drug called SRT501 for Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other diseases, Dipp says. While the chemical formula for the supplement is the same as the drug, the group’s resveratrol supplements are being offered as just that: dietary supplements, not drugs for specific diseases. That means the group can sell resveratrol just like any other dietary supplements without doing FDA-sanctioned clinical trials to get permission to begin sales. (Editor’s note: Though the nonprofit’s supplements are made in the same synthetic process as SRT501, the group says that the drug was tested in liquid form in capsules of 5 grams and the supplements are provided in powder form in 250-milligram capsules.)
Numerous outfits have been selling resveratrol supplements for years. Some were even caught illegally using the likenesses of Sirtris founders David Sinclair, a professor at Harvard Medical School, and Westphal, who now heads Glaxo’s venture firm, SR One. Dipp—who formed the Healthy Lifespan Institute with Westphal and others last year—says that their group is the only one she knows of that manufactures resveratrol in a completely synthetic process with the same high standards for sterilization and purity that govern pharmaceutical production.
To be clear, this resveratrol operation is a volunteer effort that Dipp and Westphal do on the side. Both are still employees of Glaxo, and they have also started a Boston venture firm called Longwood Founders Fund with fellow Sirtris co-founder Rich Aldrich.
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