A Hamilton biotech company is to start clinical trials after research showed its New Zealand milk-derived patented ingredient is effective in Covid-19 protection.
Quantec said research, completed by an independent US laboratory, showed its ingredient IDP (Immune Defence Proteins) had the ability to protect cells from Covid-19, but may also reduce the severity of the virus' symptoms, a key concern for sufferers of "long Covid".
Chief executive Raewyn McPhillips said the clinical trials would likely be held in New Zealand and China.
The company had already proved IDP offered effective barrier protection and support for the immune system, and had conducted previous research which showed IDP was effective at inhibiting and protecting cells against influenza A and herpes simplex, she said.
Quantec is a recognised player in the health supplement market, particularly in China and Asia, producing ranges that feature IDP as an active ingredient, such as Milkamune for adults and children, and the skincare range Epiology, which uses IDP to prevent the spread of acne-causing bacteria.
McPhillips said the company was still researching which groups and types of people to do the clinical trials with, but the elderly and the young were likely focuses.
There were two opportunities for IDP in supporting health against Covid, she said.
For those who had the virus, IDP could be a therapeutic treatment to boost the body's immune response when consumed regularly as a supplement or functional food.
It could also be a prevention tool, as a nasal or mouth spray to create barrier protection.
Quantec founder Dr Rod Claycomb said while the respiratory tract was the primary portal of entry for the virus, gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea could also occur in Covid-19 patients.
Ingesting IDP may help reduce these symptoms due to its anti-inflammatory effect on body surfaces such as the skin and lining of the GI tract, providing some therapeutic relief for Covid-19 sufferers, he said.
As well as planning clinical trials, Quantec was working with commercial partners interested in creating consumer health products based on the research results.
Claycomb said IDP was much more potent than its individual parts, such as pure lactoferrin or lactoperoxidase.
It was a patented natural milk protein complex containing more than 50 bioactive proteins, proven to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-microbial properties.
The IDP protein fraction was extracted from fresh, pasteurised milk in the same ratio created by nature to support the immune system, he said.
The independent, in vitro (within glass) study compared IDP against pure lactoferrin, one of IDP's key isolates with well-researched antiviral activity. Lactoferrin is the subject of current studies investigating its potential to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection or provide therapeutic relief from symptoms.
IDP had outperformed lactoferrin, which supported the results of other testing Quantec had commissioned which demonstrated the efficacy of natural IDP proteins to inhibit pathogens and support the body's innate and adaptive immune systems, said Claycomb.
McPhillips said the cost of the clinical trials would likely start around NZ$250,000.
Quantec would self-fund the trials or partner with customers keen to be involved.
The 13-year-old, privately owned company was not planning a capital raise.
"We've done a lot of work on the anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties of IDP and this is what we see as the next stage of understanding more about what IDP does," McPhillips said.
"But it's pretty significant and the timing of it is significant. We hope to play a part in not just Covid-19, but in flus and viruses in general."
Any products that emerged from commercialisation would be available in New Zealand.