Candy maker Mars Inc. said yesterday it is holding "serious discussions with large pharmaceutical companies" to develop a line of cocoa-based prescription drugs to treat diabetes, dementia and other ailments.
According to an article in today's Washington Post, about 20 Mars-funded researchers from institutions, such as Harvard and the University of California at Davis, have gathered in Switzerland this week to discuss their latest findings regarding the health benefits cocoa flavanol molecules, one of the basic ingredients of chocolate.
"We know we have some intellectual property that pharmaceutical companies are interested in," a Mars spokeswoman said in the newspaper report. "We're not ready to say who we are in discussions with. They are not small companies. They are big pharmaceutical firms."
A company news release said discussions included possible licensing and joint-venture agreements for drugs based on cocoa flavanol molecules which might have an aspirin-like effect, aiding in staving off blood clotting and leading to the prevention of strokes and other vascular ailments. Increased blood flow from ingesting cocoa flavanols might also help fight diseases such as diabetes and dementia, Mars said.
"The mounting scientific evidence on cocoa flavanols is extraordinary," said Dr. Norman Hollenberg, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, in the Mars news release. "This is a scientific breakthrough that could lead to a medical breakthrough."