Yeast encapsulator makes progress

Related tags Pre-clinical development

Micap, which specialises in using yeast and other organisms as
microcapsules for protecting active compounds, is set to expand its
business after extricating itself from an 'onerous' license with
Unilever Bestfoods.

Just three months after its flotation, UK microencapsulation start-up Micap has posted a modest loss in its first set of interim results but feels it is now on track to develop its technologies in the pharmaceutical arena.

The company specialises in using yeast and other single-cell organisms as capsules protect and deliver actives compounds including pharmaceuticals, flavours and agrochemicals. The technology uses the preformed walls and membranes of microorganisms to supply the capsule, and this provides a high level of protection against high temperatures, the effects of the sun, pressure, water and degradation in air.

Micap's listing on the UK Alternative Investments Market (AIM) raised net proceeds of £4.64 million (6.66m euros), allowing the company to buy itself out of what chief executive Michael Brennand described as an 'onerous' licensing agreement with Unilever Bestfoods, which held certain patents on the uses of single celled organisms as microcapsules.

In terms of its pharmaceutical ambitions, Micap​ noted that considerable progress has been made in a joint development agreement with UK drug-delivery company SkyePharma to evaluate its microencapsulation technology for oral and topical drug applications.

In June of this year, a significant milestone was achieved, when preclinical trials into the oral delivery of Micap encapsulated fenofibrate (a cholesterol-lowering drug) indicated that an unformulated Micap product delivered a similar drug loading to a fully formulated, commercially available version. These results have spurred the companies into conducting additional studies of the product. Protocols for further pre-clinical trials involving a different drug are currently being prepared.

The team has also carried out a preclinical trial on a topical application, assessing the use of Micap encapsulated econazole nitrate to treat a fungal infection. In this instance, the results showed an improvement in efficacy between an equivalent loading of Micap product and a commercially available product.

Meanwhile, a development agreement has been established involving Micap, Firmenich (its first partner in the flavours area) and SkyePharma to evaluate the use of the technology in taste masking of foul-tasting drugs.

Work with AstraZeneca to evaluate the Micap technology has been ongoing for some time. The initial feasibility studies have been extended to allow further technology development work to be carried out. Work on optimising the process conditions during encapsulation to enhance the performance of the capsules, means that Micap will be able to offer a product with higher drug loading than has previously been achieved, said the company.

cGMP production

A new agreement with Lallemand of Canada is a significant step in Micap's bid to develop its technology for pharmaceutical applications. This agreement will involve Lallemand producing yeast to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards.

Under the terms of this agreement, Lallemand has been granted an option to evaluate the Micap technology for specific applications in its own markets. Lallemand also manufactures bacteria for the nutraceutical market.

Micap also has an agreement with a major agrochemical company to develop a pesticide product encapsulated using its technology, but field trials have so far disappointed, despite encouraging results in greenhouse studies. The two companies are now looking at alternative actives and formulations to see if the performance can be improved. Meanwhile, a second agreement with a generic pesticide manufacturer has been signed to develop Micap formulations of two separate active compounds.

For the six months ended 30 September, Micap posted a loss after tax of £570,000 , down from £840,000 in the same period of 2002. The company ended the year with £3.25 million in cash.

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