Project proposals: Cancer metabolism, male contraception, functional foods / nutraceuticals

On a previous post, I mentioned some anticancer compounds we discovered during the Prosciens adventure (Luxembourg 2011-2013). Such compounds are able to selectively impair cancer cell proliferation by preventing cancer cells from meeting their abnormal metabolic requirements. One compound from this series has recently been accepted in NIH’s Developmental Therapeutics programme and the preliminary data are very exciting. We hypothesise that these molecules could also work as non-hormonal male contraceptives.

I am still looking for a suitable home for this project, but, in the meantime, by combining virtual screening (>100M vendor compounds using in-house machine-learning technologies) with on-target and cell-based assays, I have identified a number of natural products that, given their in vitro profile, are likely to be able to modulate metabolism and other aspects of physiology by interacting with receptors expressed in the gut, without entering into systemic circulation.

Many of the compounds identified so far are widespread in edible plants and are often present in traditional medicine remedies. In some cases, their reported effects and indications are fully consistent with the mechanisms of action I am currently investigating.

The fact of being potentially devoid of direct systemic effects makes these compounds particularly attractive both as medicines and as functional foods/supplements/nutraceuticals.

I am currently working towards obtaining further proof-of-concept in vitro. This far I have only tested 9 of these (dozens of) natural products : 3 are clearly active on-target (another 3 have solubility issues), whereas 8 elicit dose-dependent effects in cell-based assays.

The preliminary data collected so far has led me to the conclusion that these results might not be anecdotal. My working hypothesis is that there might be a chemical code in food and that receptors primarily expressed in the gut might have evolved to decipher that code and to prime metabolism accordingly, both at the signal transduction, transcriptional and epigenetic levels.

Due to their mechanism of action, these compounds are likely to find application in the treatment and prevention of diverse metabolic, gastrointestinal and/or liver conditions. In addition, the results of this project will inform patients and healthy individuals of which food ingredients consume preferentially and which avoid.

I am currently trying to find both a home for this project and the right team to help me obtain proof-of-concept and to eventually turn this idea into a successful business model. I am also willing to meet other scientists, CEOs and entrepreneurs with experience in this field that would be willing to provide me with advice.

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