Piperine and Vitiligo Research Update by Dr. Soumyanath
Piperine and vitiligo – research update by Amala Soumyanath
Many of you have been following the progress of my group’s research on piperine and its analogs as a potential treatment for vitiligo. Dr Jeff Corne’s article in the last newsletter described a recent British Journal of Dermatology (BJD) publication, where we showed that piperine and some analogs stimulate melanocyte growth and skin pigmentation when applied to the backs of a poorly pigmented strain of mice. These studies were conducted at King’s College London as a collaboration between myself and Professors Anthony Young (photobiologist) and Robert Hider (medicinal chemist), and involved the hard work of PhD students, Zhixiu Lin and Radhakrishan Venkatasamy and postdoctoral scientist Laura Faas. As Dr Corne described, this project grew out of a pilot study funded, in part, by the Vitiligo Society UK and by the Institute of Chinese Medicine, London. The early studies were able to attract larger funding from BTG plc, as well as a grant awarded to Radhakrishnan by the ORSAS, an organization that funds PhD programs for overseas students.
As you may know, I relocated to the USA in 2002 which led to a little hiatus in research on this project. I am currently employed at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) and in 2006, OHSU acquired the patents for the piperine/vitiligo technology from King’s College London. Significantly, in December 2007, OHSU signed a licensing deal with a commercial sponsor, AdPharma Inc to take this project forward for pharmaceutical development.
AdPharma is a diverse pharmaceutical company headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois, USA. The company in-licenses promising compounds from universities and biotech companies and advances them through the clinical testing stage. Their key strength is being able to identify, through their computer models and past experience, promising drugs which they can then drive through their strong development structure.
At present, OHSU is collaborating with AdPharma in conducting essential safety studies on piperine and analogs prior to human applicaton. Together, we are designing a clinical trial at OHSU of piperine in humans with vitiligo, aiming for a start date before the end of the year 2008. This will first involve a Phase I study examining tolerance and possible side effects of piperine. If all goes well, we will move on to a larger Phase II study actually examining its effects on vitiligo. OHSU is not just a research university but also a hospital and medical school. One of its strengths is that it has facilities and expertise for both basic research and clinical trials, and access to appropriate patient populations. I have been fortunate in gaining the support and interest of a talented group of laboratory scientists and dermatologists at OHSU to move this project forward.
While we are excited in moving towards clinical studies on piperine in vitiligo , we need to caution readers that these studies will take time, and it may still be a few years before a product appears on the market.
I thank the Vitiligo Society and its members for their support and interest in this project.
Amala Soumyanath (nee Amala Raman)
Financial disclosure: Dr Soumyanath is a consultant for AdPharma. AdPharma has also licensed technology from OHSU of which Dr Soumyanath is an inventor. The technology is used in this research. This potential conflict of interest has been reviewed and managed by OHSU