ECONOMY

Chios mastic growers think big by investing in pharma

chios-mastic-growers-think-big-by-investing-in-pharma

The Chios Mastiha Growers Association (EMX) and its subsidiary Mediterra are looking into the production of pharmaceutical products based on the gum of the mastic tree, which would not only enrich the association’s portfolio but also add value to the product.

The decision to move ahead with the initiative follows the European Medicine Agency’s recognition of the beneficial properties of the gum produced by mastic trees.

EMX said at a recent press conference that the European Union’s agency for the evaluation of medicinal products has recognized mastic for its abilities to help combat indigestion, heal skin abrasions and ease inflammations. EMX already works with medicine producers such as Iasis Pharma, which produces indigestion tablets, toothpaste and chewing gum.

The recognition of mastic’s curative properties and its potential as an active ingredient in medicines, however, is expected to broaden its use significantly.

According to Yiannis Mandalas, CEO of Mediterra, there are plans for EMX itself to produce pharmaceutical products rather than serve exclusively as the supplier of the raw ingredient to medicine firms.

It is worth noting that from 2003 to 2014, EMX provided funding to 29 research programs, 27 of which were dedicated to exploring the potential pharmaceutical uses of mastic gum. Of these 27 programs, nine were clinical trials and 18 were conducted in laboratories. EMX has forged collaborations with 10 universities in Greece, as well as education and research institutions abroad and at Greek hospitals. The aim of these partnerships is to discover more uses for mastic gum, for which the island of Chios is renowned.

Plans are also under way to launch by the end of this year the Center of Applied Research for Mastiha, which will create networks between the academic and business communities. Shareholders in the center will be the Chios Mastiha Growers Association, Mediterra, Iasis Pharma and foreign partners, among them Dutch and Swiss companied that specialize in pharmaceutical research and marketing.

The press conference was also addressed by Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis, who hailed EMX’s efforts as a “paradigm of the way that a very strong Greek product can be developed by innovative applications.”