Fish Eggs Could be a New Wonder Drug

The sea—with the oil and seafood industries—is the source of Norway’s wealth. Now the ocean could also give rise to a new pharmaceutical industry.

Foto: Per Christian Sæbø.

In the town of Ørsta, located by the fjords on Norway’s northwest coast, a small company wants to use herring roe to treat psoriasis and a host of other illnesses.

“We think this medicine can help treat inflammation, autoimmune diseases, and some lifestyle diseases”, said Hogne Hallaråker.

Hallaråker is the founder of the pharmaceutical company Arctic Nutrition. Recently, the company shared the results of their second phase development of the new drug «Psorax35».

Asked about how he came up with the idea to use herring roe to treat psoriasis, he mentioned intuition and previous work.

“We are a team that has worked together for almost 20 years, and we have expertise in both chemistry and biology. This wealth of knowledge gives us a clear advantage”, said Hallaråker.

Hogne Hallaråker will present his research at BIOPROSP, an international scientific conference on marine biotechnology. The conference takes place in Tromsø, Norway, between February 25. and 27.

The big test

Arctic Nutrition’s pills of herring roe extract have been tested on both animals and humans. Recently, it passed a so-called double blind, placebo-controlled trial. The drug was tested on patients with psoriasis, which is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by dry, scaly, itchy, and red patches on the skin.

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Foto: Marius Nystøl.

60 patients with psoriasis participated in the study. 30 received the drug, while 30 were given a placebo. After 26 weeks, the psoriasis patches on the patients who ingested the drug were reduced by 32 per cent. The patches on the patients who were given the placebo, which was coconut oil, were reduced by only 8 per cent.

Hallaråker is not particularly surprised by the results.

“We have seen this effect before in smaller studies. But we are happy with the results. If anything, we hoped we would see an even greater decrease”, said Hallaråker.

“The most important finding, however, was that we measured a significant difference in the PASI-score (a widely used index that measures the severity of psoriasis) between the treatment group and the control group”.

Safe to use – with positive side effects

The fish extract has no known negative side effects. It won’t give you nausea, dizziness or headaches. On the contrary, studies have shown that the medicine has had a number of positive side effects.

“When we have tested participants’ blood, we have found that the level of fat in their blood has decreased significantly. We have also seen a substantial decline in self-reported pain, itching and scaly skin, as well as an increase in life satisfaction.”

The study is now in an “open phase”, which means that participants can continue to use the drug. Hallaråker said that after 46 weeks, there was a reduction of more than 50 per cent in the users’ PASI-score.

How does it work?

The medicine is a patented extract made from fish eggs. The company refines herring roe and extracts a special fat fraction to make it as potent as possible. Hallaråker describes these eggs as “the mother of all cells”:

“The egg grows and splits and makes a new organism based entirely on what’s inside the egg.”

He explained that Psorax35 goes inside the wall of the cell and renews it.

“To function optimally, the cell needs to have a wall that’s in top shape. Nutrients and oxygen need to come in, and CO2 and other waste must leave. This has to function well for the cell to work”, he said.

“Moreover, we know that certain inflammation markers are significantly and positively affected by Psorax35, which stops the body from attacking itself. This is why it has such a positive effect on many autoimmune diseases.”

Psorax35 will now go through a new test with a larger patient group. Between 300 and 500 patients will participate. Hallaråker estimated that it will take roughly three to four years until the new drug will be approved for sale by the government.

BIOPROSP is Europe’s leading conference in marine biotechnology. It was first organized in 2002 and over the past 14 years, it has become one of the most knowledge-rich conferences not only in the field of marine bioprospecting, but also in the field of biotechnology, attracting top talent from Europe and abroad. 

Publisert: 17. desember 2018