Resveratrol Update

Yesterday, we posted a story about GlaxoSmithKline halting a clinical trial using resveratrol to treat patients with advanced multiple myeloma.

In it, we linked to a story from Xconomy reporting that Christoph Westphal, a local venture capitalist and Glaxo executive involved in the development of resveratrol’s pharmaceutical potential, was selling a dietary supplement form of the compound for $540 a year through a nonprofit he and others launched called the Healthy Living Institute.

Today I got an email from the PR person for Westphal’s latest venture, the Longwood Founders Fund, seeking to clarify his role in the story, which was later updated to include Glaxo’s Louise Dunn responding to Xconomy’s follow-up questions. Here is their exchange:

Xconomy: Did GSK senior management in fact order a halt to the sale of resveratrol supplements today after the Xconomy story appeared?

Louise Dunn: GSK has not instructed the Healthy Living Institute to do anything and has no authority to do so. However we have instructed the GSK employees involved with the HLA to cease their association with the organisation. Dipp and Westphal were on the Board on the HLI and were not directly involved in sales of products.

X. If so, why did GSK take such an action?

LD: GSK was not aware that the Health Lifespan Institute was selling a resveratrol formulation on the internet. We believe that there is a potential conflict if the same individuals are involved (however distantly and not for profit) in sales of nutritional supplements containing resveratrol at the same time as contributing to GSK’s efforts to generate novel specific and potent sirtuin-based prescription medicines for serious diseases associated with ageing.

X: Did Christoph and Michelle violate their employment agreements or the merger agreement by selling the SRT501 formulation as a dietary supplement, even if it was in a low-dose powder form?

LD: Michelle Dipp and Christoph Westphal are no longer involved with Healthy Lifespan. We can’t comment on their employment agreements or the merger agreement.

X: Will there be any disciplinary action taken?

LD: We don’t comment on internal matters.

Is everything clear now?

Glaxo Halts Trial With Resveratrol

Another setback for resveratrol

Problems seem to be plaguing the much-hyped compound resveratrol, found in red wine and touted to boost health in myriad ways, from lengthening life to treating cancer. So far, developing a prescription drug from the elixir has proven elusive.

Xconomy reports that pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline has halted one of its cancer trials using a formulation of the compound, due to potential “kidney complications” in patients.

London-based GlaxoSmithKline has terminated a mid-stage clinical trial of SRT501 in patients with advanced multiple myeloma, the company said in a statement e-mailed to Xconomy today. The firm acquired the drug, a formulation of resveratrol, in its $720 million buyout of Cambridge, MA-based Sirtris Pharmaceuticals in 2008.

Sirtris has captured wide media attention because of the potential anti-aging benefits of the naturally occurring chemical resveratrol, which can be found in the skin of red grapes and in red wine.

Glaxo decided to end the trial after a review of data from the study found that the formulation of resveratrol “may only offer minimal efficacy while having a potential to indirectly” cause kidney complications that often occur in myeloma patients, according to the company’s statement. The Myeloma Beacon first reported the news about the recent decision to terminate the trial yesterday. Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer found in plasma cells.

We last reported on resveratrol in August, when two Sirtris executives, including local venture capital honcho Christoph Westphal, were found selling their own formulation of resveratrol (at $540 for a year’s supply) through a nonprofit they launched. Glaxo quickly ordered the execs to halt sales of the product.