Queen’s to sell secret recipes
The low-salt and low-sugar formulas will be added to many popular foods
The Queen's Medical Center has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with a San Diego research and development firm to commercialize a Queen's patent on a new way to enhance flavorings in foods and beverages.
"We have partners all over the world, so we're aware of the research going on at numerous universities and we felt that this was valuable," said Gwen Rosenberg, vice president of investor relations and corporate communications for publicly-traded Senomyx Inc.
Senomyx is particularly interested in the technology because of concern by consumers that there is too much sugar and salt in processed foods. The Queen's patent would let food companies reduce sugar and salt while maintaining savory, sweet or salty tastes, she said.
The company would not disclose the financial terms of the licensing agreement, but Queen's director of research said it has the potential to generate millions of dollars in royalty revenue for the hospital.
Senomyx has agreements for product discovery and development with six of the world's largest food and beverage companies: Nestle SA, Kraft Foods Global Inc., the Coca-Cola Co., Campbell Soup Co., Cadbury Schweppes and Ajinomoto Co. Inc.
This is the fourth licensing contract for the hospital, which has three similar agreements with Mass.-based Synta Pharmaceuticals Corp. to develop new drugs for inflammation and stroke.
Over the past two to three years, Queen's researchers discovered a particular protein that plays a critical role in modifying tastes -- to reduce the bitterness of certain drugs, for example. Senomyx is interested in producing taste modifiers for canned beverages, packaged food and microwave products.
"All of our patents have the potential for significant revenue based on royalties -- the potential is millions and millions," said Reinhold Penner, Queen's director of research, who discovered the patented technology along with Andrea Fleig, Queen's associate director of research. "Any food or drink additive that changes the taste would be a potential customer for chemical compounds that modify it."
Penner said that a number of drug companies are interested in taste modifiers to improve the flavors of children's medicines.
Senomyx expects the first foods containing the new flavor additives to be on the market within the next few months and contribute to the company's annual revenue, estimated to be between $15 million and $18 million this year, Rosenberg said.
Queen's has been conducting genomic research since 1997 and has filed for seven patents since 2000, some of which are related to immune function, diabetes and allergies.