Life Sciences Roundup

Glaxo cracks down on Internet resveratrol sales

Christoph Westphal will resign from the board of Healthy Lifespan Institute, a spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline said. Christoph Westphal will resign from the board of Healthy Lifespan Institute, a spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline said. (Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
Xconomy.Com / August 16, 2010

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Former executives of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals have apparently gone off the resveratrol reservation.

GlaxoSmithKline, the UK pharmaceutical giant, has ordered Christoph Westphal and Michelle Dipp to stop online sales of their dietary supplement version of resveratrol through their nonprofit venture, according to Glaxo took action after news of the online sales operation was reported by Xconomy.

Westphal and Dipp, both senior executives at Glaxo, informed the parent company of their decision to start the Healthy Lifespan Institute, according to TheStreet, but Glaxo was not aware the institute was selling a resveratrol formulation on the Internet, Glaxo spokeswoman Sarah Alspach said in an e-mail cited by TheStreet. “The company has instructed the GSK employees to cease their association with this activity and Michelle Dipp and Christoph Westphal will be resigning their positions on the board of Healthy Lifespan,’’ Alspach told TheStreet.

GlaxoSmithKline has a huge stake in the control of resveratrol. It paid about $720 million to acquire Sirtris two years ago and has invested millions more in resveratrol’s potential as a treatment for diseases that people get as they age, like diabetes.

The company’s pharmaceutical grade version of resveratrol has not made it through the clinical trial process required to win Food and Drug Administration approval for sales in the United States. But as a lower-dose dietary supplement, resveratrol does not have to pass that sort of regulatory scrutiny.

Dipp told Xconomy that Healthy Lifespan Institute was selling the supplement for $540 for a one-year supply, just to cover costs, but not to make a profit.


* * * Local legends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck rose from the bowels of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (the high school’s drama department really is in the basement) to become movie stars — and Damon got a star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame.

But business leaders who have risen from places like Harvard University and MIT, creating jobs and changing the world, are ultimately far more heroic than movie stars.

So why not create an Entrepreneurial Walk of Fame in the world’s densest innovation zone, Kendall Square?

That’s the inspired idea from Xconomist Bill Aulet, managing director of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center. His concept is being championed by Cambridge City Councilor Leland Cheung (who’s expected to graduate in 2012 with a dual MBA-MPA degree from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government). He hopes to bring the proposal to the full council this fall.

The idea, Aulet says, “comes from my belief that successful entrepreneurship is about spirit as much as it is about skills . . . Our model is Educate-Nurture-Network-Celebrate. The stars on the sidewalk falls right in line with the ‘Celebrate,’ which we should do more of.

“If you want to keep a culture of risk-taking and entrepreneurship, then we should treat our entrepreneurs as stars, and what better way than this?’’

Cheung says “every community should take the time to celebrate what makes it great. In Hollywood it’s actors; in Cambridge it’s entrepreneurs.’’

Cheung says he sees the courtyard at the Marriott Hotel and Kendall Square Red Line station as the perfect place for the first stars.

I’ve been thinking about the top entrepreneurs and innovators to come out of Cambridge. Here are just a few of the names I came up with:

■Edwin Land — inventor and Polaroid cofounder

■Harold “Doc’’ Edgerton — inventor of the strobe and cofounder of EG&G

■Phillip Sharp — Nobel Laureate biologist at MIT and cofounder of Biogen and several other biotechs

■Walter Gilbert — Harvard Nobel Laureate, cofounder of Biogen, venture capitalist

■Robert Langer — prolific MIT inventor and founder of more than a dozen companies

■Rodney Brooks — MIT professor and robotics visionary, cofounder of iRobot

■Helen Greiner — cofounder of iRobot

■Colin Angle — another iRobot cofounder, now its CEO

■Gururaj “Desh’’ Deshpande — cofounder of Sycamore Networks, entrepreneur, angel investor

■George Whitesides — legendary Harvard chemist, cofounder of Genzyme

■Daniel Lewin — cofounder of Akamai, killed in 9/11 attacks

■Robin Chase — cofounder of Zipcar

■Nicholas Negroponte — founder of MIT Media Lab

■Ray Kurzweil — inventor and futurist


* * *

Boston Heart Lab, a Framingham provider of cardiovascular care management products and services, has raised $10 million in an equity and rights financing, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company’s website lists two members of the investment team at Bain Capital Ventures in Boston — Jeff Crisan and Alice Limkakeng — as being directors of the company.

Peter Parker, the former CEO of Cambridge-based Cequent Pharmaceuticals (now part of Marina Biotech of Bothell, Wash.), is listed as Boston Heart Lab’s chairman.

Boston Heart says it provides proprietary lab tests to measure cholesterol as well as programs to track the health of people with cardiovascular disease.

This report was compiled by the editors of Xconomy, an online news website focused on the business of technology and innovation. For more New England coverage, visit