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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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August 12, 2010

Resveratrol (SRT501): Buy Now - Why Wait?

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Posted by Derek

Update - see below for more on this story. GSK has reacted quickly. . .

Now this seems rather odd. According to Xconomy, two former Sirtris higher-ups have formed a nonprofit foundation which is selling resveratrol online.

Michelle Dipp, a Sirtris-turned-Glaxo executive, confirmed that the nonprofit that she and former Sirtris CEO Christoph Westphal co-founded last year has started online sales of resveratrol. Dipp leads the effort on the off hours when she isn’t doing her main job as senior vice president of Glaxo’s Center of Excellence for External Drug Discovery.

While the group is charging $540 for a one-year supply of resveratrol, Dipp says that the nonprofit is selling the supplements for cost and is not profiting from the sales.

And thanks to Hatch-Waxman, since this is being offered as a "dietary supplement", hey, it can go straight into people - people with $540, anyway:

To be clear, this resveratrol operation is a volunteer effort that Dipp and Westphal do on the side. Both are still employees of Glaxo, and they have also started a Boston venture firm called Longwood Founders Fund with fellow Sirtris co-founder Rich Aldrich.

“Our main business is brining new drugs to patients through our work at Longwood and (Glaxo),” says Dipp, who is president of the Healthy Lifespan Institute. “But there was so much demand for (resveratrol).”

I really don't know what to make of this. This formulation of resveratrol would appear to be basically SRT501, which has been involved in a number of clinical trials (and unexpectedly dropped out of one not too long ago). I can't recall another case where an investigational drug has also been sold as a dietary supplement, by some of the same people, who are working both for the company funding the trials and for a nonprofit foundation. I mean, what if GSK/Sirtris find a clinically relevant use for resveratrol? Why buy it from them if you can get it at cost? Or would all that change if SRT501 gets FDA approval? Makes a person's head hurt, it does. . .

Update - GSK has now asked Dipp and Westphal to resign from their institute, saying that they didn't realize that they were selling resveratrol. That didn't take long!

Comments (69) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Aging and Lifespan | Clinical Trials


1. PharmaHeretic on August 12, 2010 12:23 PM writes...

Snake oil.. reloaded. But after fiascoes such as- COX-2 inhibitors, Ezetimibe, Olanzapine and other atypicals, Varenicline, SSRIs (paroxetine).. the pharma industry has also lost its credibility.

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2. processchemist on August 12, 2010 12:28 PM writes...


maybe I'm wrong, but I remember some FDA directive or US law that says that as soon the ingredient of a dietary supplement enters clinical trials can't be no more used as nutraceutical. Can you confirm it?

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3. milkshake on August 12, 2010 12:44 PM writes...

I suppose the next turn in the crackpot saga will be a late night advert explaining that big pharma and big government are conspiring to keep this revolutionary research about a natural healing power away from the patients

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4. processchemist on August 12, 2010 1:02 PM writes...

Having worked (during better times) on projects for a company entirely focused on natural products and semisynthetic derivatives, I witnessed to the death of a project with a natural antocyanoside as candidate (indication: support to chemiotherapies), then tried (with good results) their formulation for sore throath, largely based on antocyans (I'm still waiting for his approval, it was fantastic).
But the resveratrol saga, with this new development, leaves me perplexed, to use mild terms.

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5. Terry on August 12, 2010 1:20 PM writes...

This is an indication to me that this resveratrol thing has legs. Why on earth would two very respected scientists put their reputations on the line if they truly did not believe the resveratrol and SIRT1 activation is for real.

This is good news. Many very good human resveratrol studies have been rolling out recently with more to follow.

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6. John on August 12, 2010 1:50 PM writes...

I believe some of the people involved in omega-3 trials are also pushing the same products on the side. Presumably they'd slap a fancy label on the side if it ever reached NDA.

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7. john on August 12, 2010 1:51 PM writes...

A recent article came out from a group at Kansas which demonstrated low doses of resveratrol were driving cancer cell growth in some cell lines. These doses were much lower than those needed to see the inhibitory effects, it was specific to cell lines and acted through stimulation of the NF-KB pathways. The authors were surprised by the result but I thought the data looked good at least no red flags came up, though I am trained as a chemist.
Reference is Mol Carcinog 2010 49(8)750-759

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8. john on August 12, 2010 1:53 PM writes...

A recent article came out from a group at Kansas which demonstrated low doses of resveratrol were driving cancer cell growth in some cell lines. These doses were much lower than those needed to see the inhibitory effects, it was specific to cell lines and acted through stimulation of the NF-KB pathways. The authors were surprised by the result but I thought the data looked good at least no red flags came up, though I am trained as a chemist.
Reference is Mol Carcinog 2010 49(8)750-759

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9. Henning Makholm on August 12, 2010 2:14 PM writes...

processchemist: "maybe I'm wrong, but I remember some FDA directive or US law that says that as soon the ingredient of a dietary supplement enters clinical trials can't be no more used as nutraceutical."

Try googling for "clinical trial" "vitamin C". Based on your result, what does your theory predict about the legality of selling vitamin C as a dietary supplement?

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10. LAM on August 12, 2010 2:31 PM writes...

The conflict of interest of the former Sirtris executives, now GSK senior managers, is expanding. They all should be summarily fired from GSK immediately. Letting them stay in their GSK positions gives us all insight into GSK's current management style and amazing ability to continue to misfocus.

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11. Skeptic on August 12, 2010 2:41 PM writes...

"...selling resveratrol online"

Makes you wonder about all those ex-med chems taking on huge education loans so they can get those hot protected jobs in pharmacy and regulatory affairs. Add on the coming VAT's and I think bankrupt Grandma is going to give up the fascinating cell biology discussions with the local pharmacist and go with the cheaper product from the underground operators.

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12. Virgil on August 12, 2010 3:29 PM writes...

Critical distinction to be made... Are they selling resveratrol (as the website claims), or are they selling SRT501? The latter is not resveratrol but some weird formulation of it (to increase bioavailabilty IIRC). Thus, they can continue to sell resveratrol because this is not the same composition-of-matter that's in the clinical trials and covered by glaxo/sirtris patents. In the same way they can continue to study SRT501 in clinical trials because presumably they convinced someone at the FDA that it's a different entity to the over-the-counter nutriceutical.

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13. Terry on August 12, 2010 3:59 PM writes...

They are selling micronized resveratrol. I think Ms. Dipp was not telling the truthiness.

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14. Anonymous on August 12, 2010 5:02 PM writes...

@Derek - "I mean, what if GSK/Sirtris find a clinically relevant use for resveratrol?"

I'm just dying here! Thanks so much for the laugh! After yesterday's post on new job prospects for chemists, I needed one. That was a joke right?

She's in charge of external drug discovery at GSK AND The Healthy Lifespan Institute? You can't pay for irony like this.

Dr. Dipp: You are the weakest link! Goodbye.

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15. AR on August 12, 2010 5:57 PM writes...

Storms ahead for resveratrol? The compound is plenty toxic to hepatocytes and other cell types. Perhaps this will be the final straw that pushes the FDA to start regulating nutritional supplements when enough resveratrol popping consumers present with fulminate hepatitis.

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16. TFox on August 12, 2010 6:20 PM writes...

Sounds expensive. 30 seconds on Froogle finds products with the same specs (30 250mg capsules) at less than half the price per bottle. I guess it's the "completely synthetic process" that makes the difference. I doubt that's a benefit, though, most consumers in the health supplement market seem to like the word "natural". China price for the bulk product, extracted from natural sources, might be 10x lower -- I got a quote at < $600/kg when I was curious a couple years ago, compared to $6/g from this outfit.

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17. UPDATE on August 12, 2010 8:01 PM writes...

Whoops.....they should have been foreced to resign from GSK, which would have allowed them to retain their well considered positions with Healthy LifeSpan. Both are so slimy, which fits with trying to sell snake-oil.

Glaxo Slaps Former Sirtris Execs

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18. cancer_man on August 12, 2010 8:06 PM writes...

Why would one assume that Dipp was "not telling the truthiness"? This looks like SRT501, which Sirtris claims is 5 times as potent as resveratrol. At $1.50 for 250mg, that is about what you'd expect 250mg of SRT501 to cost if not for profit. Healthy Lifespan Institute can still sell it as resveratrol even though a formulation.

GSK clearly doesn't want to have anything to do with SRT501 since focusing on the NCEs, but does it make more sense to have a non profit sell it than let it drop? Both Sinclair and Westphal say they are taking SRT501, so if there is good news in a forthcoming paper, a lot of people will start buying it.

I'm sure resveratrol vendors have been nervous about GSK selling SRT501 even though most assumed it would never happen because it couldn't generate enough profit when competing with regular resveratrol.

And now they are selling it at cost. This could easily put a large hole in vendor's sales. Is the goal to later get FDA approval and then be the only brand to have that?

Westphal said a few weeks ago that a paper will soon be publishedthat will get as much publicity as the Pfizer paper.

It is likely that more will come out on this story in the near future.

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19. cancer_man on August 12, 2010 8:18 PM writes...

I just read post #17. See! I was right about more coming out in the near future.

"GSK [Glaxo] was not aware that the Healthy Lifespan Institute was selling a resveratrol formulation on the Internet. The company has instructed the GSK employees to cease their association with this activity and Michelle Dipp and Christoph Westphal will be resigning their positions on the board of Healthy Lifespan," said Glaxo spokeswoman Sarah Alspacham in a statement emailed to TheStreet.

Am I the only one who thinks this was all staged?

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20. Anonymous on August 12, 2010 8:27 PM writes...

Several yrs of revenue from this product may in fact allow GSK to recover the ca. 780 million $ that they spent in the acquisition of sirtris.

Funny how things progress. It's almost predictable. The best layed plans of mice and men....

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21. And Pigs Fly on August 12, 2010 8:42 PM writes...


Staged? By who? Who gains? Only Westphal and Depp, stroaking their egos, promoting their concepts without supporting science. Sounds a lot like the basis of Sirtris.

Pharma R&D has enough problems. It does not need this type of irresponsible management, leadership, as "the newest future" as well. GSK was foolish. They should take this as an opportunity to rid themselves of both "Sr. Executives", and get back to science being the driver of new drugs, not make believe advertising.

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22. cancer_man on August 12, 2010 9:07 PM writes...

I don't understand the motives of anyone in this. SRT501 has already been shown to be effective against diabetes. How is that junk science?

Westphal is a multimilionaire. He needs his ego stroked by selling something similar to SRT501 as a non-profit?

Westphal and Dipp are empoyees of GSK and GSK was obvlious to what they were doing?

There must be some twist to this strange story, and I think we'll know in a few weeks

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23. qetzal on August 12, 2010 9:51 PM writes...

@processchemist (#2) & Henning Makholm (#9),

I commented on this point earlier today, but it seems the spam filter ate my post. I'll try again without the hyperlinks this time. Apologies to all if this ends up being a repost.

21 USC 321 (ff)(3)(B)(ii) states:

The term "dietary supplement" does not include an article authorized for investigation as a new drug, antibiotic, or biological for which substantial clinical investigations have been instituted and for which the existence of such investigations has been made public, which was not before such approval, certification, licensing, or authorization marketed as a dietary supplement or as a food unless the Secretary, in the Secretary's discretion, has issued a regulation, after notice and comment, finding that the article would be lawful under this chapter.

I found that because FDA actually cited it in a letter to another company wanting to market resveratrol as a supplement:

FDA has carefully considered the information in your not