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Bioactive natural compounds extracted and isolated from olive tree using modern technologies: Probing into their therapeutic potential

Final Report Summary - OLITEC (Bioactive natural compounds extracted and isolated from olive tree using modern technologies: Probing into their therapeutic potential)

OLITEC was a collaborative research project funded by European Commission under the frame of FP7 Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways (Marie Curie - IAPP), focusing in the advance of new technologies and the development of new products from the olive tree with therapeutic or preventive potential (phytomedicines, food supplements). The project included 5 partners in total, 2 universities, namely the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (Greece - acting as coordinator), the University of Paris Descartes (France) and 3 industries Frutarom (Switzerland), Lavipharm (Greece) and Hitex (France). The project started in 2009 and was successfully terminated in 2013.

As it is well known, olive products are major constituents of Mediterranean diet and have been associated with reduced all-cause death rate, mainly due to a decreased incidence of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer. Moreover the olive tree (Olea europaea) is one of the major crops in Mediterranean Europe with 8.6 million cultivated hectares. The consolidation of the pharmacological properties of the olive constituents, the possible identification of new bioactive constituents in olive extracts, the amelioration of the extraction and purification procedures of active compounds as oleuropein are targets of high priority and important financial impact.

Under this scope, OLITEC has successfully implemented all emerging technologies and scientific advances for the effective exploitation of the olive tree, in terms of extraction, purification, biological evaluation and development of added-value products with therapeutic potential. In specific, OLITEC has succeeded to:

a.Investigate Olea europaea cultivars for their oleuropein content and determinate the best source of raw material, under these terms;
b.determine the optimal extraction practices and conditions for the efficient preparation of enriched extracts in laboratory scale, with the use of state-of-the-art methodologies and instrumentation such as supercritical carbon dioxide extraction, subcritical water extraction, microwave extraction, adsorption resins and cross flow filtration;
c.identify bioactive small molecules from the highly complex extract matrixes with the aid of modern mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance techniques;
d.isolate bioactive metabolites from complex extracts using advance and specialized isolation and structural elucidation techniques;
e.assess the biological activity of selected purified O. europaea molecules in targets associated to health protection (cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, metabolic syndrome);
f.synthesize new molecules based on O. europaea constituents, possessing promising antitumor properties the transdermal formulation of the bioactive ingredients oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol
h.scale-up the laboratory extraction processes for the pilot scale production of extracts enriched in selected O. europaea constituents with potential health claims; the feasibility of the development of a new product with financial and commercial interest;
j.Improve or launch new olive-based products into the market.

The success of OLITEC project lies in the fulfillment of its very specific goal, tied to the mentality of Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways, which is the close and effective collaboration between core scientific knowledge and industry. Within the scope of OLITEC, the industrial partners have all managed to launch or improve olive-based products. In specific, Frutarom managed to improve the production of Benolea® and expand the potential health claims. Benolea®, is an olive leaves extract standardized in oleuropein and enriched in polyphenols, suitable for pharmaceutical and nutraceutical use. Similarly, Hitex, through the procedures developed during OLITEC implementation, has launched a new product based on the olive tree under the name Mediolive®. Mediolive® is an extract produced through eco-friendly supercritical carbon dioxide extraction, standardized in olive polyphenols and suitable for cosmeceutical and nutraceutical use. Finally, Lavipharm, Greece is investigating to launch a new transdermal patch formulation of olive bioactive ingredients by the end of 2015.

Most importantly, OLITEC has proven a very important stepping stone for the University of Athens and the Laboratory of Natural Products Chemistry. First an “Olive research Group” was established and then before the end of OLITEC project in 2013 a new spin-off company named “PharmaGnose” was established. The first product that was launched, OleaMed®, is a “green” olive extract standardized in hydroxytyrosol that is suitable for cosmeceutical and nutraceutical use. The development of OleaMed® was largely encouraged by the European Food Safety Authority publication (EFSA Journal 2011;9:2033) stating that the natural phenol hydroxytyrosol appears to protect LDL particles oxidative damage, whereas 5 mg of hydroxytyrosol as olive oil constituent should be consumed daily. To this end OleaMed® was developed by the scientists of University of Athens and is currently available in the market.

OLITEC project has managed to establish a sustainable network of transferring know-how from academia to industry, and vice versa. All envisaged secondments and recruitments were fulfilled, thus creating a critical mass of scientific and technical know-how that aided greatly both the scope of OLITEC and the professional skills and potential of the individuals participating. Overall OLITEC project is considered by all partners as a success story with significant impact in the scientific and industrial community as well as in the society and the European economy.