Among the founding fathers of the biotechnology industry, Roberto Crea, PhD., founder and CEO of CreAgri Inc., is internationally acknowledged for the role he played in the successful establishment and growth of Genentech, Inc.—as one of the first four scientific founders of the legendary biotech company—and for his pioneering role in the production of many rDNA protein drugs from bacteria.
Among other innovations, Dr. Crea is the inventor of the synthetic DNA process that led to the discovery of the first recombinant human insulin, Humulin, and many other pharmaceutical drugs and applications that fueled the exceptional growth of the biotechnology industry. But there’s a lesser known aspect of Dr. Crea’s scientific career: his discovery and development of olive polyphenols, which is currently attracting great international attention. Though less glamorous than contributing to the birth of an entire industry, Dr. Crea’s role in the promotion of the many applications of olive polyphenols may be equally as important for human health and wellness than was persuading bacteria to produce growth hormone, human insulin and interferons.
And while Dr. Crea’s mark on the biotech industry was seminal, in the area of olive polyphenols his role is fundamental. Before Dr. Crea’s entry into the field of olive polyphenols, and particularly into producing natural Hydroxytyrosol—the molecule to which food experts credit the beneficial effects of the Mediterranean Diet—obtaining these plant derived compounds was costly, difficult and required the use of solvents or other extractive processes. Furthermore, even when synthesized or extracted, they could not be produced on a scale large enough to stimulate the introduction of new consumer products.
Things changed radically in 1999 when Dr. Crea devised The Integrale: a novel and subsequently patented method to derive olive polyphenols and hydroxytyrosol via citric acid hydrolysis from the juice of freshly milled olives created during the production of olive oil. Although it may not have seemed to be an “earth shattering” discovery, Dr. Crea’s invention of a viable method to naturally obtain large amounts of olive polyphenols from olive oil wastewater has led to a revolution in the olive industry, and in the way olive oil is produced. His invention has fostered a complete re-thinking of the recovery and use of this “olive juice”, not too long ago regarded as wastewater or “black water”—a polluting and abundant by-product which disposal raises serious concerns for the environment. It was also Dr. Crea’s original scientific contribution that led to the recognition of the healthy role that olive polyphenols play in the management of inflammation-based conditions ranging from psoriasis, arthritis, and neurodegeneration to the maintenance of healthy cardiovascular function. In 2011, Europe’s Food Safety Agency, EFSA, recognized the ability of olive oil polyphenols and hydroxytyrosol to inhibit oxidation of LDL particles, at a minimum intake of 5mg/day. This served as further validation of Dr. Crea’s research. He had in fact already established the required active dose through a number of independent, ground breaking clinical studies.
Dr. Crea’s work with olive polyphenols and hydroxytyrosol was acknowledged with a keynote presentation at Paris Polyphenols 2012, the world’s largest symposium on polyphenols derived from agricultural biomass, which was held in Paris, at the Palais Brongniart June 7-8. Then on June 12, in his native town of Reggio Calabria (Italy), Dr. Crea received the “Man of the Year” Award in recognition of his scientific and entrepreneurial successes of the past 35 years.
Then back in the United States on June 21, 2012 in San Francisco, Dr. Crea was honored for his contribution to Science and Medicine by the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) with a gala at the Fairmont Hotel. Concluding the month, HIDROX—Dr. Crea’s proprietary formulation of olive polyphenols—will be featured for presentation for its antimicrobial attributes at the IFT meeting of June 27-29, 2012 in Las Vegas.