Dr Conor Kerley, of county Louth, Ireland, wanted to be a professional athlete but his diagnosis changed his direction completely and now, despite the Covid pandemic completely disrupting his plans, he has successfully launched company Phytafix with two products aimed at immune health.
He said: “When I was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis it shifted my focus from wanting to be a professional athlete to wanting to get healthy myself. But I also really wanted to help people as opposed to producing white papers which would sit on dusty shelves and never really reach the average person on the street.”
Conor went to Trinity College Dublin to study for his honours degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics. Following graduation, he completed his clinical doctorate with the School of Medicine and Medical Sciences at University College, Dublin.
After his PhD, Conor embarked on two separate post-doctoral fellowships: the first was with the MedEx Program with the School of Health and Human Performance at Dublin City University. This was one of Europe’s largest medical exercise programs for older adults with diverse chronic disease. Conor solely set up and ran its first ever nutrition component. His second post-doctoral felllowship with the HeartBeat Trust, a heart failure prevention and treatment unit at St. Michael’s Hospital, Dun Laoaghaire, Co. Dublin.
He said: “I spent about a year working full time and got a clinical trial off the ground, which was about to start in April of 2020 and then COVID completely cancelled everything, so I had a bit of a panic.”
He then decided to pivot the business from a blood pressure focus more towards an immune focus - and not just because of Covid.
“It sounds crazy I know, but back in 2020 we didn't know how long the virus was going to be around and I didn't want to put all my eggs in the Covid basket as such.
“I thought immunity was a good market because obviously there’s flu every year and that's global, and of course I had my own immune issues and I also have allergic asthma. I then worked really hard to get our first product off the ground. And you know, in the middle of the pandemic with no resources, no commercial background but thankfully, we brought Immune Phix to the market in November 2020.”
Immune Phix contains a number of specific and crucial vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients known to help maintain immune health. These include: vitamin B12 from Irish mushroom, natural vitamin C from dried berries and cherries, vitamin D3 from marine algae, magnesium from marine multi-mineral complex from the Irish Sea, the same type of selenium as found in nuts, highly absorbable zinc, flavonoid polyphenols from 100% pure, organic, Japanese Matcha Green Tea and fruit powders.
Conor said: “What's really innovative about Immune Phix is it's based on food ingredients and the end result is a single teaspoon provides the same amount of vitamin B12 as 250 gm of steak, the same amount of vitamin C of 13 oranges, the same amount of vitamin D as five glasses of fortified milk the same amount of magnesium as 30 prunes the same amount of selenium as 2,500 sunflower seeds and the same amount of polyphenol-flavanoids as 15,000 bananas.”
There's no artificial sweeteners or additives or preservatives and it is just the ingredients and nutrients from natural food sources.
It comes as a pleasant tasting berry flavoured powder and can be added to porridge, yoghurt, juice, smoothie, milk, even water and parents find it easy to give to children.
The second product, COVMPAQ called so because each letter represents a nutrient in the capsule – curcuminoids, organic, plant-based vitamin D3, vitamin B12, magnesium, piperine, ashwagandha and quercetin.
The nutrients in COVMPAQ has been used in intervention studies with Covid-19 patients in peer-reviewed journals reporting the benefit of each nutrient in the capsule (not hypotheses, reviews or preprints) and is patent pending as the world’s first food supplement to combine these specific ingredients.
Conor said: “For my sins I keep up with scientific research, which takes a lot of time but it means I can be on the cutting edge of what's happening in research, not just what's happening in the markets and what's trending but what customers are wanting, I can actually figure out what's scientifically valid.
“I have been reading all these papers on nutrition components and the effects of them on COVID-19 but nobody was really talking about it, so what I decided to do was put them all together as a capsule and we applied for a patent for our product which we launched as a capsule in December 2021.
“We would be absolutely delighted to speak to any academics, clinicians or researchers about potential collaborations in the short term, or long-term future.”