Carson City biopharma firm using botanical products to take on infectious diseases
Legere Pharmaceuticals Ltd. based in
Carson City has a breakthrough product
aimed right at consumers’ guts.
More specifically at the frequent
culprit of chronic stomachaches, including
the piercing pangs of indigestion,
ulcers and worse:
Helicobacter pylori a form of bacteria
experts believe causes most of the
upset stomachs or gastritis among the
estimated 60 million cases a month in
which Americans take something to
relieve a constant bellyache.
Legere (which is doing business as
Lectin Labs Ltd.) has developed an overthe-
counter powder, NutraLec, based on
proteins known as lectins naturally found
in most plants and animals (in
NutraLec’s case, wheat). Lectins are
weapons against H. pylori (as it is more
commonly called by scientists), which
seems to be quite the terrorist among
H. pylori (pronounced pie-LOR-ee)
was discovered in 1983 by two Australian
researchers. Until then, scientists
believed that stress, poor diet or too
much alcohol caused ulcers. Now
researchers know that H. pylori is the
culprit, and that chronic infection can
lead to stomach cancer which trails
only lung cancer as the most fatal human
malignancy on the planet, according to
the World Health Organization.
H. pylori thrives in the stomach’s
highly acidic environment, colonizing
and spreading and ranks as the most
common human pathogen in the world.
H. pylori infects half of all Americans
and two-thirds of the world population,
according to the WHO and the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control.
The market for a product such as
NutraLec would seem to be huge. Lectin
Labs has been developing the antipathogen
since 1992 and set up shop in
Carson City in 1996. Carson proved to
have the best price for land and facilities
compared to next-door California, Reno
and Sparks, says Howard C. Krivan, company
president and chief scientific officer.
The company has filed for patents on
NutraLec and now is bringing it to market.
The first order for bulk shipments to
a distributor which will sell the powder
to retailers, who will package the
supplement under their own brand
names is expected by October, says
company chairman/CEO Bruce F. Rose.
NutraLec will hit northern Nevada store
shelves before the end of the year,
offered either in pouches or plastic
bottles, Rose says. Consumers either
on their own in response to chronic
stomach troubles, or on the recommendation
of their physicians as an alternative
to prescribing antibiotics are
directed to take 20 grams daily of the
powder, mixing it in tea, water or other
beverage to absorb NutraLec’s mildly
Rose and Krivan are two of three officers
in the company, which has six fulltime
employees at its 10,000-square-foot
facility at 3123 Research Way. There are
corporate offices, laboratories and a pilot
plant to produce NutraLec and a range of
other lectin-based products the company
is in various stages of developing.
The officers bring a range of experience
to the company:
* Rose, with 40 years in the pharmaceutical/
healthcare industry, help led two
companies VLI Corporation, Inc.
(maker of the TODAY contraceptive
Sponge) and UltraFEM, Inc. (maker of
the INSTEAD Female Sanitary
Protection Device) each to $100
million capitalization and listing on
* Krivan is a microbiologist with an
extensive resume in the public and private
sectors. He was a staff fellow at the
National Institutes of Health. He also
founded the vaccine-maker MicroCarb,
Inc. (now called Antex Biologics, Inc.)
and helped lead it to an initial public
offering. Krivan holds 14 U.S. patents.
* Richard C. Potter, executive vice
president/chief operating officer, is a
chemical engineer who developed such
products as the No-Pest Strip and the
Hartz Flea Collar.
Legere plans to package and market
NutraLec under its own label in addition
to meeting orders for a distributor with
whom Legere has signed a multimilliondollar
contract to last three to five years.
The company forecasts $80,000 in
sales of NutraLec in 2002, $2.5 million
in 2003 and $36.8 million by 2006.
“The global marketplace for NutraLec
is estimated to be in excess of $5 billion
and consists of 5,500 U.S. health food
stores, 55,000 U.S. pharmacies, mass merchandisers
such as Wal-Mart, network
marketing companies, e-commerce and
international retail outlets,” Rose says.
The company expects to have up to 50
full-time employees by 2006 the same
year Legere anticipates U.S. Food &
Drug Administration approval of a far
more advanced form of NutraLec to be
available by prescription. The current
version falls under the federal Dietary
Supplement and Health Education Act
as a supplement, and did not need FDA
approval, Rose says.
Clinical trials have shown that
NutraLec relieves stomach pain and also
arrests the infection of H. pylori, Krivan
says. This means that NutraLec should
be taken daily as with standard vitamins
and mineral supplements by
those who suffer from frequent gastric
discomfort. Depending on the retailer’s
price, NutraLec can cost $20 to $50 a
month far less expensive than an
antibiotic treatment, Krivan says.
Someone suffering an upset stomach
perhaps after eating at a restaurant
may reach for an over-the-counter product
such as Tums or Zantac. But recurring
pain should signal a trip to a physician
for a test to reveal whether H. pylori
is in a patient’s stomach, Krivan says.
And those who suffer gnawing gastritis
may suspect that the bacterium is at work
and seek to medicate themselves with
NutraLec without initially seeing a doctor,
The battle between lectins and H.
pylori is conducted on the molecular
level. Carbohydrates bristling with various
chemical receptors cloak living cells.
The receptors bind with different molecules
to transfer chemicals that keep the
cell alive. H. pylori and other pathogens
have surface proteins that can attach to a
cell’s receptor and wreak havoc. That
beachhead is the beginning of a battle
that can result in infection that can
spread to other cells.
Lectins, however, can bind with and
destroy many types of pathogens, such as
H. pylori, and thus ward off disease.
Not only is reaching for a bottle of
Maalox not a cure for the cause of indigestion
or ulcers (as opposed to the
symptoms), but even mega-doses of
antibiotics aren’t always effective, since
H. pylori is known to resist certain
antibiotics, Krivan says.
Legere also is developing a range of
microbicides (bacteria-killers) to use in
pharmaceuticals or over-the-counter
nutraceuticals to treat skin disorders such
as acne and body odor, digestive ailments
and sexually transmitted diseases.
“The company has several core technology-
based products in varying degrees
of the development,” Krivan says. “The
company intends to introduce other
nutraceutical, dermaceutical (skin carebased)
and RX products. For example,
lectins have been found to specifically
target bacteria that cause acne and body
odor; lectins also have been found to
arrest infection of the Type I herpes
virus, which is responsible for cold sores.
And a vaginal microbicide is under
development to prevent STDs in women,
such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and
HIV/AIDS,” he says.
“This lectin technology has endless
applications in fighting microbial disease
and the company has a long pipeline
of exciting product opportunities.”
“The thing that I like most about entrepreneurship is I can work toward something that I’m passionate about and be at the forefront of the change that I want to see happen,” said Priyanka Senthil, a senior at Davidson Academy in Reno and co-founder of startup company AUesome.