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Focus on neuroscience: the ‘following where nature leads’ approach


“A strong industry-academic interface is very important if we are to make the most of science and technology for society’s benefit,” says Dr. Francesco della Valle, Founder and President.

Education and science are the underlying elements of a profitable operation, something many businesses fail to appreciate. The pharmaceutical sector, by its very nature, is intimately linked with science. Dr. della Valle himself has many years of experience in managing a pharmaceutical firm and its transformation into a highly successful, internationally recognized operation, prior to establishing his own business.

The latter endeavour was the culmination of a long period of research, inspired by the Nobel laureate Rita Levi-Montalcini and based on a “hypothetical-deductive” approach, which follows regulatory pathways laid down by nature and is intended to maintain a homeostatic balance in the body when challenged by stress or injury.

This novel strategy differs profoundly from the so-called “inductive” method of drug discovery traditionally employed by pharma, which is based on the synthesis of large numbers of chemical entities and identification of lead molecules for the intended target.

Epitech was founded in 2004 to bring to market those products evolving from this project, and representing innovative therapeutic tools to serve the physician and his/her patient.

“We have opened the italian market for our products and are expecting an annual turnover of 15 million EUR in 2015,” says Dr. della Valle. “At the same time, we continue to develop our scientific ideas in order to realize new applications in niche markets with future potential.”

The Epitech Neuroscience Project is its core competence and business mainstay. In collaboration with partner Italian research teams, they discovered for the first time that modulating immune system cells - defined today as “nonneuronal cells” - with the natural substance Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) is able to adjust physiologically the reactivity of such cells, in particular mast cells, microglia, astrocytes and oligodendrocytes.

Another essential element of these studies was the demonstration that administration of PEA was capable of normalizing nerve signals in situations of altered regulation, for example, involving chronic and neuropathic pain, especially in fragile subjects such as the elderly, and given PEA’s excellent efficacy/safety ratio.

Extremely important was the application of the process of micronization and ultra-micronization to enable the oral administration of PEA. These key findings have been capitalized on to expand the company’s therapeutic portfolio, which now includes the Epitech Pelvic System Project focusing on pelvic pain related to gynaecological and urological problems, and the Epitech Dermoscience Project involving research and systems relating to the human skin and mucous membranes.

Epitech has succeeded in registering a number of patents for each of these projects, a confirmation of their highly innovative potential.

“We have often pioneered new applications and invested considerably in our patents, which represent the company’s lifeblood,” confirms Dr. della Valle. “This is how we have become a reference business especially in the field of neuroscience, a topic we anticipated far before others became involved. Because of this, we are frequently called upon to explain new developments at pharmaceutical and neuroscience-related congresses.”

Participation at conferences, along with a growing scientific and clinical literature, is finally beginning to impact how pharmacology sees the need to follow the principals of nature.

Of course, what matters is the application of scientific findings. Following where nature leads, Epitech has developed a number of successful pharmaceuticals that are marketed in Italy or licensed in other European countries.

Further innovative achievements can be expected from the knowledge that neuroinflammation may be the cause or driver of numerous peripheral and central nervous system pathologies, for example, stroke, dementia, Parkinsons disease, and spinal cord and traumatic brain injury.

The company’s most recent venture is an alliance with U.S.-based Prismic Pharmaceuticals Inc., which is expected to facilitate its successful entry into the American market. Epitech’s heart and soul remain in Italy, however, where its central facility in Saccolongo accommodates research, quality control, storage, administration and the co-ordination with external operative units.

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