Sirco model smoothes Provexis' route to negotiations

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Platelet, Nutrition, Provexis

The strategy of demonstrating the potential of new technology with
an own-brand launch in order to garner interest from major industry
players seems to be paying off for Provexis, which has progressed
with global licensing discussions for Fruitflow since Sirco drinks
started selling in UK supermarkets.

The tomato-based Sirco drink launched in UK supermarkets Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury's in January 2006. Although Sainsbury's subsequently withdrew it as part of a reorganisation of its chilled drinks range, sales for the first three months were £140,000 (c €205,000).

"Sirco has been strategically important to Provexis as a demonstrable example of the Fruitflow technology in action, and there is little doubt that the launch of the brand in the UK has facilitated global licensing discussions with major food and beverage companies,"​ said company chairman Dawson Buck.

For now, Provexis is not revealing details about the negotiations, some of which are said to be at an advanced stage. But since it has been granted a US patent for Fruitflow, it is likely that that market will figure in future commercialisation plans.

Provexis' Fruitflow technology was developed out of the discovery that the clear fraction of tomatoes contains compounds that inhibit blood platelet aggregation, thereby smoothing blood flow and helping to maintain healthy circulation and heart. The Sirco drink is endorsed by the charity Heart UK.

The peer-reviewed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​ has also recently accepted two studies on Sirco for publication, which should provide further leverage for product sales and licensing.

"This represents a major validation for the quality of the science behind Fruitflow,"​ said CEO Stephen Franklin.

Sirco and Fruitflow are currently the driving force behind Provexis' business, and the indications that they may be instrumental in lifting the company into the black are promising.

For the full year ended March 31 2006, however, Provexis reported operating losses of £3.3m (€4.8m) for the year ended March 31 2006, compared to £1.1 (€1.6) for the previous year, and turnover decreased by 56 per cent to £268,000 (€392,000).

It put the drop down to the previous year's results being bolstered by a one-off fee paid by Nutrinnovator Holdings, with respect to its reverse take-over.

Provexis is not resting on its laurels with respect to other nutraceutical technologies, however.

It is on the verge of embarking on clinical trials with a medical food based on a patented extract from the plantain banana for the dietary management of Crohn's disease. The food is being developed in conjunction with the University of Liverpool, and Provexis is also collaborating with a global clinical nutrition company.

Northwest Development Agency recently granted the company a £180,000 research grant for Crohn's disease technology.

Work is also continuing on the development of a broccoli-derived bioactive ingredient associated with reducing the risk of certain types of cancer. Provexis is working closely with The Institute for Food Research on this project.

It is possible that it will follow the same commercialisation strategy for this as it has for Fruitflow.

"We are currently reviewing the relative merits of launching a new brand in the UK followed by a global licensing strategy, or alternatively moving straight to licensing arrangements,"​ said Franklin.

As for the identification of other technologies to commercialise in the future, Provexis is half way through a three-year technology acquisition agreement with Plant Bioscience Ltd, which has a network of 35 research institutes that may yield further opportunities for functional foods.

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