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Sewickley company’s red-grape-based pills draw consumers

A Sewickley company started by a group of local business executives and medical professionals is selling a dietary supplement packed with extracts from red-wine grapes and other plants — along with some hefty hints about health benefits.

Vinomis Laboratories released its Vindure 900 tablets in late June on the company’s Web site.

“In five days, we sold $10,000 worth of product. It’s going very well,” President Mark Juliano said.

Produced at a plant in South Carolina by Downtown-based General Nutrition Centers Inc., the tablets are based on Harvard Medical School findings that suggest a chemical known as resveratrol — as well as other ingredients derived from French Bordeaux red-wine grapes and other plants — can improve cardiovascular health, endurance and memory, while cutting cancer and diabetes risks.

Juliano is a partner in Xenomis LLC, which licensed the Harvard science two years ago. Four of the five Xenomis founders — all acquaintances from the Sewickley area — plus Dr. Bryan C. Donohue, chief of cardiology at UPMC Shadyside, created Vinomis Labs in January as a sister company to make and market the tablets, he said.

Resveratrol is the most potent of the 19 components known as polyphenals, which are in Vindure 900, Juliano said

The chemical holds top billing on the labels of dozens of supplements sold at pharmacies and health stores.

Resveratrol’s benefits for humans remain unclear, however, because all the published research so far is based on animal studies, said Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab.com .

He said consumers are taking a chance that it will do some good.

“It is a very intriguing compound that seems to have some interesting effects,” Cooperman said, “but it’s too early to say what the benefits and potential side effects are.”

Vinomis, which so far employs a marketing representative and a Web programmer, routes online orders to CCQ Fulfillment Inc., which ships them from a Chicago warehouse. Vinomis keeps most of the profit and pays a royalty to the original company, Xenomis, which pays Harvard 5 percent to 10 percent of the royalty.

GNC representatives couldn’t be reached for comment.

Juliano said Vinomis Laboratories is in “active discussions” with GNC about selling Vindure 900 in its stores.

Juliano, a former Fore Systems Inc. marketing executive who co-founded podcasting company TalkShoe Inc., said he and other Vinomis “team” members started the company with $100,000. Partners are Bill Watts, a former chief executive at GNC; David Sculley, former chief executive officer of Heinz USA; Jeff Bost, a UPMC clinical instructor and health-book author; and Donohue.

UPMC neurosurgeon Dr. Joseph Maroon — a Xenomis partner who authored the book ” The Longevity Factor ” about the health benefits of resveratrol and other grape extracts that he termed “xeno factor” — is an adviser to Vinomis.

Ten other physicians — cardiologists, neurologists and other specialists as well as general practitioners — came on board recently as investors. Additional investors could help with clinical trials, Juliano said.

Additional Information:

About Vindure 900

• What: Dietary supplement with 400 milligrams of resveratrol, plus red-wine grape extract and quercetin, which helps keep ingredients in the bloodstream.

• Based on: The French, who believe that red wine helps them live longer despite their high-fat diet. Harvard Medical School research identified resveratrol as among 19 polyphenals that could bolster cardiovascular health and provide other benefits.

? Sold by: Vinomis Laboratories of Sewickley; manufactured by GNC.

? Available: Online and through a network of medical professionals. A 30-day supply costs $39.95; a 90-day supply is $99.95, with an automatic-reorder option.


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