News and events

New Zealand company leads the world in eczema research

This article was published on 30 March 2018

A breakthrough eczema treatment has propelled a New Zealand scientist into the spotlight, leading to the invitation to deliver a keynote speech at the top global dermatology conference later this year.

Dr. Iona Weir, CEO of Auckland-based Decima Health, will be a major attraction at The International Conference on Clinical and Experimental Dermatology (ICCED) in Chicago in May on the strength of the work done on Atopis, a treatment for eczema that convinces the body’s immune system to attack the affected area.

For Dr. Weir, this is the culmination of over twenty years’ of ongoing research and product development, while she also worked as a company director of various natural product companies, playing a central role in growing several start-ups through to successful commercialisation.  This has included the number one gastrointestinal health product, Phloe™ in the New Zealand over-the-counter laxative market.

Dr Iona Weir
Dr Iona Weir

“Atopis™ has its origins in the research from my PhD from 1997 which proved there is a process of programmed cell death called apoptosis that occurs in plants.  This research was groundbreaking at the time and won an international award for best PhD.”

The research continued to gain accolades and a Marsden Fund grant allowed Weir to prove that, unlike animals, apoptosis in plants is reversible.  This discovery was able to be applied to human health needs and has been the basis of Dr. Weir’s ground breaking research.

Critical reactions that occur in plants were carefully extracted and scientifically combined and set in a natural carrier cream. When applied to the surface of the skin they gently permeate to encourage the body’s natural immune response to attack the affected area and repair damaged cells.

“By manipulating this reversibility in plants I have been able to create Atopis™ to manipulate apoptosis and immune function in human cells to stimulate cell repair and growth.  A small clinical trial in the United States verified this and opened the door to a larger study”

The trial was recruited and fully completed within a time frame rarely seen in New Zealand – Iona Weir

A Callaghan Innovation grant helped ensure a second larger double blinded placebo controlled clinical trial of Atopis™ went ahead in New Zealand, and both the trial itself and the results it produced were impressive.

“Due to an innovative design and recruitment strategy the trial was recruited and fully completed within a time frame rarely seen in New Zealand and the trial results are very conclusive, showing ‘outstanding’ clinical significance in efficacy,” says Dr. Weir.

So outstanding, that when she submitted the conference abstract to the ICCED, the organisers invited Dr. Weir to share the story as a key note speech with the assembled global leading dermatologists, product scouts and experts and pharmaceutical company scientists.

“To be chosen as a key note speech on a new experimental product at an event like this, signifies that the organisers saw Atopis™ as one of the most innovative and exciting new scientific breakthroughs this year.”

Bionona Ltd, a subsidiary of Decima Health will look to partner nationally and internationally to release Atopis™.  Dr. Weir said that Callaghan Innovation’s support has helped to progress the business and ensure ongoing trials and research remain a uniquely New Zealand story, where the IP, patents and research are wholly New Zealand owned.