It all started when at a chance meeting at an airport lounge where Prof Tom Brenna (CSO and inventor) explained to Dr Craig Patch (CEO) a novel discovery that branched fats could reduce necrotising enterocolitis in rats by up to 60%.
This set in motion the idea behind our mission of commercialising branched fats. Craig & Tom then teamed up with Sarah Crennan (Director of R&D) who worked on developing the idea in two companies before finally securing the intellectual property and forming Vernx Biotechnology Pty Ltd.
Branched fats are an important fatty acid found in human vernix caseosa and breast milk. It plays an important function in the developing infant gut epithelial, regulating immunity and seeding a healthy microbiota. Preterm infants and formula fed infants are deficient in branched fats which has significant negative health effects on gut health and immunity. Vernx Biotechnology will supply the global pharmaceutical, infant formula and supplement market with our proprietary branched fat active ingredients. Vernx Biotechnology is committed to providing science based medical foods to improve gastrointestinal health.
The Vernx Leaders
Craig Patch - CEO / Co - Founder
Dr Patch is a nutrition innovator with more than 20 years experience dedicated to improving the health and wellness of infants. He was instrumental in the identification, protection, in-licencing, development and spinning out of intellectual property from the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Adelaide to form Premneo Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd, where he was the founding VP, Development & Innovation. Under his direction, he formed and led a high performance team to develop a novel DHA product to prevent bronchopulmonary dysplasia that was used in a phase-3 multisite NICU clinical trial involving 1273 premature babies. Furthermore, Dr Patch led the commercial strategy for Clover Corporation Pty Ltd for 8 years, resulting in the launch of many nutritional ingredients for infants sold globally.
Dr Patch has extensive experience in managing sales and marketing activities in nutrition science and biotechnology. Dr Patch is a also co-inventor of three patent applications, has published more than 35 peer-reviewed articles and has been instrumental in the formation of five start-up companies in the area of social enterprise, nutrition, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Dr Patch has a Bachelor of Applied Science, is qualified dietician/nutritionist and has an MBA and a PhD in biomedical science.
Sarah Crennan - Director R&D / Co - Founder
Sarah is an innovative product developer in the area of food, medical food and pharmaceuticals, with a focus on the health effects of novel fatty acids. She has extensive research and development expertise in microencapsulation, bio-fermentation, manufacturing, process development, product scale up and dairy processing. She has an established track record in new product development leading to commercialisation. Notably, in her role as a senior member of Nu-Mega Ingredients Pty Ltd R&D team, which delivered new nutritional products for infants sold globally. Ms Crennan, is the co-inventor and lead product developer on a number of patents, including a novel DHA product to prevent bronchopulmonary dysplasia in premature infants that was used in a phase II (n=30) and phase III multisite NICU clinical trial (n=1273). This is the world’s largest nutritional intervention trial targeting premature infants and was also awarded GRAS status in the US in 2014. In 2015, the DHA product and associated intellectual property was spun out into a new entity Premneo Pharmacuticals Pty Ltd, of which she was founding senior scientist, R&D. Ms Crennan has a Bachelor of Food Technology (Hons), and is a PhD candidate investigating “The use of novel fatty acids for the prevention of Necrotizing Enterocolitis in premature infants”.
Prof Tom Brenna - Chief Scientific Officer / University of Texas / Co - Founder
Professor Tom Brenna’s research couples nutrition and chemistry in a broadly interdisciplinary program. He is a member of graduate fields in Cornell’s four large colleges: Nutrition (CHE and CALS); Food Science and Technology (CALS); Chemistry and Chemical Biology (Arts); Geological Sciences (Engineering and CALS), and in a long-standing collaboration with a prominent former member of Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine. His research group has been funded by institutes/centers at the NIH (NIGMS, NEI, NICHD, NCCIH) and has included at least one active R01 continuously since 1992. These grants have supported fundamental work in the nutrition of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and development of advanced mass spectrometry instrumentation and techniques.
Most of the work of the Brenna Lab is translational, tying basic research to biomedicine and human nutrition. Some studies are designed with particular, topical human health questions in mind, and these studies have occasionally had immediate implications. The most prominent examples of this work are animal studies to evaluate the efficacy, safety, and metabolism of food sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids. This work often employs stable isotope tracer techniques and molecular or isotope ratio mass spectrometry to probe metabolism. Other projects, particularly those that develop instrumentation and methods for mass spectrometry techniques, have a longer term payoff. They are sometimes undertaken for the challenge of making measurements that have never been possible previously, with an eye toward eventual applications. An example of this area is the development of a novel gas phase reaction for derivatization of polyunsaturated fatty acids for facile determination of double bond structure, which has found applications associated with safety of edible oils, including detection of trans fatty acids. More recent research is on nutrition of saturated branched chain fatty acids, a neglected class of dietary fatty acids. Recent work involves development of methods for more precise and rapid detection of endogenous performance enhancing drugs, particularly testosterone, as well as methods for detecting exogenous drugs.
Professor Brenna has served on numerous national and international advisory panels on human nutrition. He was a member of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee appointed by the US Secretaries of Health and Human Services and of Agriculture. He is currently President of ISSFAL, the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids.