GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) has ordered two Sirtris executives--Christoph Westphal and Michelle Dipp--to stop selling a resveratrol dietary supplement based on the drug the two companies have in development. In 2008, GSK forked over $720 million for access to Sirtris' pipeline of drugs based on resveratrol, a compound found in red wine that's thought to increase longevity. Many consumers have been clamoring for access to resveratrol after news report touting its anti-aging effects.
Westphal and Dipp have been selling the supplement through a nonprofit venture called Healthy Lifespan Institute. They charge $540 for a year's supply of the drug, but don't see any profit from sales. The supplement is a version of the experimental drug SRT501 that is in trials for Type 2 diabetes, cancer and other diseases. According to Xconomy, the Healthy Lifespan Institute's carefully worded site doesn't endorse the chemical. Dipp says they provide a safe, high-quality product that meets higher standards than other resveratrol supplements on the market.
Not surprisingly, GSK isn't at all pleased with Westphal and Dipp's side business. Although their version of resveratrol is different from what GSK is developing, TheStreet says it could still undermine the major investment GSK made in buying Sirtris. The drug giant told Westphal and Dipp to halt sales of their supplement after Xconomy's report revealed their activities. GSK "was not aware that the Healthy Lifespan Institute was selling a resveratrol formulation on the Internet," according to a GSK statement obtained by TheStreet. "The company has instructed the GSK employees to cease their association with this activity and Michelle Dipp and Christoph Westphal will be resigning their positions on the board of Healthy Lifespan." There's no word yet on whether or not the two former Sirtris execs plan to follow GSK's orders.