The two pending patents - EP 06076172.3 and EP 03790959.5 – relate to the use of vitamin K1 and K2 in medical products and food supplements that respectively reverse calcification of blood vessels and prevent age-related stiffening of arteries, not associated with atherosclerosis.
The patents were the subject of third party observations - a form of pre-opposition - by an unnamed party believed to be a rival vitamin K supplier, but after two hearings at the Munich headquarters of the European Patent Office, NattoPharma emerged with its patents intact.
"The EPO approval and confirmation of these two patents represents a milestone for NattoPharma,” said NattoPharma chief executive officer, Peter Carlsson, in a statement.
“This will significantly strengthen NattoPharma's IPR and contribute to NattoPharma's competitive advantage and the ability to support our customers and partners in the marketing of MenaQ7 within the food supplement market as well as the functional food market."
The patents are expected to be granted in the first half of 2011 NattoPharma said.
They relate to vitamin K formulations used in products targeting the above mentioned conditions, but are not health claims themselves, and indeed, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has rejected a vitamin K-heart health claim, although bone health was approved.
Carlsson said his company was working toward a heart health claim submission for 2011.
Vitamin K2, or menaquonine, is usually sourced from natto – a popular soy food in Japan – and is a vitamin whose star seems to be rising as studies mount demonstrating its ability to benefit heart, skin and bone health as well as fighting the onset of some cancers such as prostate.
Danisco and Frutarom are two major suppliers that have entered the vitamin K market recently.