A CURE in a lick of time
By Karl Geiger 05/09/2013
“A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down,” sang Julie Andrews in Disney’s 1964 film “Mary Poppins.” But what if medicine need not be swallowed at all?
Many medications, vitamins and supplements work in very, very small doses. Much of what makes up a pill we swallow or injection we get are added ingredients that make the product large enough to handle, weigh and dispense conveniently. For example, the recommended daily dose of vitamin D is only 10-15 micrograms (mcg: millionth of a gram). The rest of the vitamin D pill’s material is simply there to hold the vitamin D dose while we swallow it.
Medicines we take in pill or injection can be absorbed directly through the skin or mouth, however, so long as there is some way to carry the active ingredients.
CURE Pharmaceutical (http://curepharmaceutical.com/) has been hard at work solving this problem. “We’re looking for ways to make drugs more accessible,” said CURE’s Chief Science Officer Edward Maliski, Ph.D. CURE facilities combine a research and development and manufacturing center in a 25,000-square-foot building located in Oxnard.
Maliski helped found CURE in 2010. He is a research scientist whose 30-year career prior to CURE includes work at Amgen, Merck & Co., and the Sterling-Winthrop and Glaxo Research Institutes. CURE’s other principals are CEO Robert Davidson, CMO Jon Turman, COO Wayne Nasby and Director of Research Eric Allen, Ph.D. Turman, Nasby and Allen are also alumni of Thousand Oaks-based biotech giant Amgen. Davidson was CEO of InnoZen Inc. and chairman at HealthSport Inc. prior to helping found CURE.
The company’s secret sauce is oral thin film (OTF) technology. Medicines are embedded in thin, dissolvable strips. Patients put the strips inside their cheeks, the “buccal” area. The strips dissolve to release medication that absorbs rapidly and directly into the bloodstream.
The secret to the secret sauce: hiding the taste of the active ingredients embedded in OTFs. Most medications, vitamins and supplements are bitter and unpleasant. CURE’s Eric Allen is expert at hiding an active ingredient’s taste using micro-encapsulation. Allen has also done work to deliver time-released versions of products. One such time-release CURE product, e6 Energy Strips sold by 21st Century Brands, delivers an all-day dose of caffeine, B vitamins and amino acids.
CURE also makes pain-relief products that are absorbed directly through the skin. The company developed and manufactures Fuse Science’s Enerjel™, a topical pain-relief product popularized by golfer Tiger Woods. The company’s complete product portfolio includes anti-infective, anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular drugs, anti-diarrheal and a variety of over-the-counter items such as sleep aids, stress relief, antihistamines and allergy relief, motion sickness, electrolyte replacement and dietary supplements in addition to energy strips.
CURE has also begun development of OTF medications for diseases that afflict millions around the world. Half the world’s population — 3.3 billion people — is at risk from malaria. The U.N.’s World Health Organization estimates 219 million suffered from the disease in 2010, and estimates that 660,000 died. Most of the dead were children younger than 5.
Malaria treatment must be given in series over several days. The medications have been bulky and large or require mixing and consumption with water. CURE’s OTF could replace these products with a lightweight, easily carried product that dissolves in the mouths of infants and children too sick or too small to swallow a pill or large amounts of liquids or syrups. And good-tasting buccal products help ensure delivery of vital medication to young children who would otherwise spit out pills and liquids.
For consumers and patients who are not suffering acute illnesses, OTF strips offer a convenient way to consume dietary supplements, pain relievers, anti-oxidants and hangover relief. The strips’ flat packaging makes them lightweight to pack and carry, and they are especially easy to take for geriatric patients and for those who have difficulty swallowing. CURE’s scientists are working on veterinary applications as well.
CURE Pharmaceutical hires from the pool of local, highly-skilled research and manufacturing talent. CURE’s sales topped $2 million in 2012. The company continues to expand business and win new licensing and manufacturing contracts in the U.S. and around the world. As the world’s population ages and increases its need for easy-to-take medication, CURE and its OTF technology will be a company and a technology to watch.
Plugged In is a monthly column focused on new technology from companies in and around Ventura County and appears the second week of every month. Plugged In authors Bridge Carney and Karl Geiger are chair and past chair, respectively, for the Ventura Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [IEEE], the world’s largest professional organization, with more than 800 local members in Ventura County. Please find them at www.ieee-bv.org.