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BIA-Brukerstyrt innovasjonsarena

SupaFLEX: Microalgal polysaccharides as a novel treatment for osteoarthritis

Alternative title: SupaFLEX: Mikroalgepolysakkarider som en ny behandling av slitasjegikt

Awarded: NOK 5.3 mill.

Project Number:


Project Period:

2022 - 2025

Funding received from:



Partner countries:

Microalgae are microscopic plants found in freshwater and marine environments. Despite their small size, microalgae play a key role as a source of nutrients for oceanic life, and in CO2 capture. MicroA A.S is developing innovative and sustainable microalgal-derived products for a number of markets, including as natural and effective healthcare treatments. This project will focus on a product obtained from microalgae called SupaFLEX, which is a carbohydrate that has demonstrated a range of biological activities during laboratory testing. In particular, several of these properties are known to be important for the treatment of the health condition, osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a disease resulting from the loss of cartilage in the joints, which causes pain, inflammation and loss of mobility. It is estimated that osteoarthritis effects 1 in 3 people above the age of 65, but there are still few effective treatment strategies. MicroA and its project partners, SINTEF and ETH Zurich, will evaluate SupaFLEX by characterising its effects in biological models of osteoarthritis, in order to develop an injectable treatment targeting the reduction of both the symptoms, and the progression of this condition. The results generated from this project will help confirm that SupaFLEX has biological activity against osteoarthritis, and justify further development of the treatment in order to reach the patients.

The SupaFLEX project will develop a best-in-class injectable multifunctional therapeutic for reducing the progression and symptoms of osteoarthritis (OA), based on a microalgae-derived sulfated polysaccharide. OA is a disease resulting from the loss of articular cartilage and is caused by trauma, joint malformation, excessive load and/or genetic factors. The major symptom is joint inflammation, causing pain, loss of function, and accelerated degradation of the cartilage. OA is a global public health problem where more than 240 million people are affected, as much as 1 in 3 people above 65 years of age, but also many young people from congenital defects, trauma, or strain injuries. There are presently no therapeutics that can prevent, slow down or reverse effects of OA, primarily due to the multifactorial etiology of the disease. MicroA's proprietary polysaccharide has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, anti-fibrotic and enzyme-inhibiting properties, all relevant for the treatment of OA. In the SupaFLEX project MicroA will, in collaboration with SINTEF and ETH Zürich, demonstrate the potential of the polysaccharide to reduce the progression and symptoms of OA treatment toward developing a novel and safe therapeutic with long-term efficacy. This will be achieved by the production of multiple structural derivatives of the polysaccharide , screening of biocompatibility and functional properties, and the mitigation of OA in advanced in vitro models and a small animal study. The project will generate new knowledge on structural-functional properties of sulfated polysaccharides in biomedical applications and on the mechanisms and treatment of osteoarthritis and other inflammatory diseases. For MicroA, the project's result will pave the way for new commercial partnerships and further clinical development of the polysaccharide, toward first-in-man clinical trials and a potential contribution to solving one of the largest medical and socioeconomic challenges today.

Funding scheme:

BIA-Brukerstyrt innovasjonsarena