Nanotechnology Getting a Boost from RTP Startup NuRevelation's Molecular Cocktails

Nanotechnology Getting a Boost from RTP Startup NuRevelation's Molecular Cocktails

It all began with moonshine – the high-end, branded luxury type – and has culminated in a promising foray into nanotechnology.

Suffice it to say Naomie Lucas isn’t your average founder of a biotechnology startup. And her company, NuRevelation, isn’t your typical biotech business.

The Tar Heel entrepreneur has steered a somewhat circuitous career path since she left the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in chemistry and English. It’s a journey that’s taken her from N.C. to Barbados – she briefly served as a government consultant there – to the western U.S. and back. Lucas started Research Triangle Park-headquartered NuRevelation a little over three years ago.

The company is pioneering what it believes to be the first all-natural, self-assembling nanoparticle technology designed to encapsulate a variety of nutraceuticals, vitamins, pharmaceuticals, CBD and other cannabinoids through its proprietary JoChe process (pronounced joe she).

NuRevelation uses U.S. Food and Drug Administration GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe)-compliant ingredients to convert oil-based compounds into water-soluble powder. The JoChe nano encapsulation method masks bad taste and odor, preserves product shelf life for as long as 18 months, and is stable at temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Lucas.

The technology also can create molecular cocktails of two or more compounds, the company says. And it has the potential to significantly increase bioavailability – the body’s capacity to take in more of a product’s beneficial components faster – without altering chemical structure.

“Based on our field studies in humans and pets so far, I’m optimistic about the potential significant reduction in compound onset times,” Lucas pointed out. “We believe JoChe could eventually be a major benefit to the pharma industry because onset time is critically important to many therapies.”

The JoChe process also uses inexpensive elements, so it’s cost effective. And the extremely small size of the nanoparticles may allow them to cross major organ barriers.

NuRevelation reports that the technology can encapsulate a variety of compounds into nanoparticles as small as one nanometer (one-billionth of a meter). That’s tiny, even by nanotechnology standards.

The JoChe moniker carries a lot of significance for Lucas. It’s the amalgamation of the names of her best friend’s son, JoJo, and her godsister, Keysha. JoJo died of Alpha 1 Antitrypsin Enzyme Deficiency, which increases the risk of lung and other diseases, five days before his third birthday. Keysha succumbed to Alper’s Disease – a progressive and extremely rare neurologic disorder – when she was 7 ½ years old.

“The JoChe name we’ve given to our nanoparticle process is a constant reminder that our efforts are for the sake of humanity,” said Lucas, herself a two-time cancer survivor. “When God gives you a second chance, you value the purpose of your life differently.”

From Making Moonshine To Manufacturing Nanoparticles

So where does moonshine fit into the equation?

The first consumer products company Lucas started was Southern Wicked Lemonade (SWL). It’s an all-natural, branded luxury liquor infused with regionally sourced fruits. She said she incorporated some of the agricultural know-how she picked up from her sharecropper grandfather, William “Thomas” Lucas, to develop a technique to rapidly saturate fruit flavors into grain alcohol.

Thomas Lucas also knew how to make liquor – the unbranded, illegal kind. He was a moonshiner in eastern North Carolina who Lucas said turned to the trade after her grandmother, Manomie, fell ill with tuberculosis. “He needed the extra money to visit her in a Raleigh hospital, and to help pay medical bills,” she explained. “So, I have roots in ‘shine.”

SWL was the first minority- and female-owned distilled spirits company in the United States. The product caught on quickly and gained notoriety when it was included in nominees’ swag bags at both the 2018 and 2019 Grammy and Academy Awards ceremonies.

Lucas was soon approached by celebrity friends who wanted her to find a way to add cannabis derivatives to beverages. The biggest challenge: cannabinoids, in their raw state, are oil rather than water based. So it’s harder for the body to absorb them, she pointed out. While contemplating how to improve the solubility of these compounds for more beneficial results, Lucas said she had a revelation about a formula for nanoparticles and NuRevelation was born.

A Tiger by The Tail

It’s been a whirlwind since then. “We seem to have caught a tiger by the tail,” she said.  The company has enlisted more than a half dozen experts in a variety of fields – nutritional immunology, nutrition metabolism, biochemistry, metabolic engineering, pet nutrition, chemical engineering, molecular biology, and medicinal chemistry – to join its scientific team. The majority are investors in NuRevelation.

Allen Wilson, a business professional who is a long-time Lucas mentor, is managing partner and chairman of the board. Founding partner Eric Seidel, who serves as chief scientific officer, is largely responsible for the maturation of the JoChe process, Lucas said.

NuRevelation continues to explore new ways to use its nanoparticle technology.

Geriatric patients who have difficulty swallowing or don’t like the taste of their medications, for example, might benefit by having the drugs converted into a flavorless nanoparticle powder cocktail that would easily dissolve in liquids.

Pet owners who face the challenge of getting their obstinate animals to take medicine because of its taste or smell could find that nanoparticle encapsulation is the answer to their prayers – and their pets’ good health.

Nutraceuticals that improve human performance also interest NuRevelation, one of six U.S.-based businesses selected in 2021 to showcase their technology to government and human performance optimization experts. The event was sponsored by the NC Defense Technology Transition Office and the NC Center for Optimizing Military Performance.

The company recently signed a manufacturing license agreement with California-based Green Star Labs. And it is discussing new product opportunities with several regional and global companies that include a Fortune 100 subsidiary.

Meanwhile, NuRevelation continues its research at the Mass Spectrometry Core Laboratory and the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Lab in UNC’s Department of Chemistry, and with the Nanomedicines Characterization Core Facility that is part of the UNC Center for Nanotechnology in Drug Delivery.

Lucas hopes to raise $2.5 million from angel investors that will be used, in part, to conduct pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic and blood-brain barrier studies, she said. The information will be used to determine the viability of the company’s nanoparticle technology in penetrating areas of the body that medicines have thus far been unable to reach effectively.

“We think our company can bring tremendous benefit to North Carolina and beyond,” Lucas added. “We’re excited about all the possibilities.”

Read the original article on WRAL TechWire.