Mera Pharmaceuticals reorganizes into 2 units
Mera Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Big Island-based company that is trying to turn the cultivation of algae into a big business, has announced a reorganization that management hopes will let it capitalize better on the products it already sells.
Mera disclosed yesterday that it has reorganized the company internally into two operating units: a research division that will try to develop new products and a consumer products division that will oversee sales and marketing of a line of dietary supplements that Mera already has.
As part of the shuffle, Daniel Beharry will step down as Mera's chief executive to be president of the research unit. Gregory Kowal, Mera's chairman, will take on the chief executive duties.
Kowal said the change is meant to focus resources on marketing a line of anti-inflammatory dietary supplements that contain astaxanthin, a pigment found in wild salmon. Mera has developed a way to derive the substance from microalgae that Mera cultivates. Astaxanthin is known to contain antioxidants, substances believed to help stave off the effects of aging by soaking up substances that can damage cells in the body.
Mera has created three products containing astaxanthin: AstaFactor Rejuvenating Formula, AstaFactor Sports Formula to promote recovery after workouts and AstaFactor Salmon Essentials, which also contains purified salmon oil, a source of Omega-3 fatty acids. The company is already selling the products through local retail outlets, such as Longs Drug Stores, Kowal said.
Mera hopes to ride what appears to be a wave of interest in astaxanthin, Kowal said. For example, he said, astaxanthin was recently touted on Oprah Winfrey's television show by Dr. Nicholas Perricone, a best-selling author who has built a franchise advising people how to feel and look younger by eating certain foods and supplements. Kowal said he does not believe Mera saw a major sales boost after the Oprah show, in part because Perricone sells his own line of astaxanthin supplements.
Mera also got a jolt of exposure on the Discovery Channel that seems to support the adage that any publicity is good publicity. The cable network's show "Dirty Jobs" takes viewers to the world of people who collect owl vomit, artificially inseminate horses and clean up road kill for a living. A recent episode showed Mera workers cultivating algae.
Kowal said the spot helped the company because the show's host explained the health benefits of astaxanthin.
"It has helped our sales somehow because it was done in a positive way," he said.
The change at Mera comes after a state court delayed Mera's efforts to grow other strains of algae in a partnership with Rincon Pharmaceuticals of San Diego. Circuit Judge Elizabeth Strance in October ruled that Mera must do an environmental assessment before importing the algae into the state.
Rincon has developed eight strains of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, each of which has been modified to produce drugs that could help fight the herpes simplex virus, limit tumor growth, battle cancer cells and stimulate growth of nerve tissue. Kowal said the changes at Mera is not related to the delay of the Rincon work.
"It has nothing to do with that algae," he said.