Cover Story

Dr Joseph Gabriele

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November, 2012    |

Dr Joseph Gabriele

Delivers the future of pain management

Dr Joseph Gabriele took a detoured path to a career in academia. Following an undergrad from the University of Toronto and a Masters from McMaster in 1989, he entered a career in footwear importing for the next 19 year. He describes it as a fun time, his sales role having him spend six months of each year traveling across North America and Europe, yet by 2006 he found himself completing his Post Doc at Queens. By the end of 2006 he was a faculty member at McMaster University, conducting important preclinical research with relevance to psychotic and neurodegenerative diseases. Our story begins when a personal tragedy led Dr Gabriele to develop what is now a medical triumph of tremendous significance. Dr Gabriele’s wife was diagnosed with a bone tumour. Following several surgeries, and compounded by a severed branch of the trigeminal nerve, Mrs Gabriele was cancer free yet suffered debilitating pain. Oral pain relievers were providing little relief and an insufferable list of adverse effects. Mrs Gabriele defiantly chose to discontinue use of pain meds- Dr Gabriele took action. Utilizing his own time, resources and scientific team, Dr. Gabriele developed the cutting edge Delivra™ trans-dermal delivery system – a topical that when combined with any other agent (natural or prescription), can transport these ingredients for deep, localized action. This topical system provides an alternative to oral medication, bypassing the GI tract and any systemic effects associated with digestion, and empowers patient self-medication for enhanced recovery. In the case of his wife, Dr. Gabriele coupled this topical system with natural ingredients traditionally used for pain relief – creating a fast-acting, deep penetrating pain cream – providing the much sought after relief she needed.

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This new topical transport system has caused a paradigm shift in promoting a less invasive way to deliver natural and/ or prescription pharmacological medications. The topical delivery system takes advantage of little known scientifically established interactions between plant-product substances, human cellular and nerve tissues, and as such actually has a dual action effect. Not only does it provide a fast-acting response from the actives it transports, but the cream base itself contains natural oils and extracts including rutin and its derivatives, as well as other polyphenols, that have the potential to block five main pain pathways. The delivery system cream has no strong odours, contains no parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate or petrolatum – making it an excellent alternative to emollient, synthetic based creams. Delivra™ has undergone testing for its depth of penetration as a trans-dermal carrier cream. During in vitro studies, using reconstructed epidermis (Epiderm™) (the existing gold standard for testing of topical delivery systems), the Delivra™ cream base was mixed with Naproxen and tested against Pluronic Lecithin Organogel (PLO) – the most common topical base foundation. Regarding delivery depth of Naproxen to the underlying dermis layer, Delivra™ outperformed PLO 6.3 to 1.

Dr. Gabriele continues his solid commitment to research in collaboration with an extensive research team. He has partnered with Xenex labs for pharmaceutical applications of the cream, and this partnership services pharmacies across Canada. He has also partnered with natural health product’s giant Atrium Innovations for natural health product applications of the cream. What makes Delivra™ such a novel and important advancement? The cream was developed with the goal of overcoming many obstacles facing existing topical delivery systems; delivering large molecules, delivering active constituents in a targeted manner (selecting between dermis, blood, muscle, or bone delivery), and allowing for the use of actives that are water soluble. Delivra™ has succeeded in all three areas. The cream possesses a fatty acid composition very similar to that of skin… It binds and in many ways “becomes part of” the skin. The union of cream and skin acts to drive active molecules into the dermis. However, the work of this research team was far from done.

While Delivra™ had succeeded in raising the size limit of molecules for topical delivery from a previous ceiling of 500kDa to over 1000kDa (with work underway to increase this to up to 3000kDa), many of the actives desired for combination with the cream, especially in the realm of natural medicine, remain too large for use. The team succeeded in yet another series of ground- breaking developments, in recognizing that a large antiinflammatory molecule, for example, would retain its therapeutic properties if only a small fragment of the active molecule was isolated and added to the Delivra™ system. This has allowed for the topical delivery of an array of therapeutic herbal and neutraceutical constituents that until now were beyond the reach of utility as topical agents.

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The limitless potential of this innovation has not fallen on deaf ears within our government. The NRC, through a natural products and marine biology program in PEI, have offered the Delivra™ team a laboratory within their facility, and funding in the form of a Canadian innovation grant is expected in the near future. We wait with eager anticipation to see how far this incredible team can take “the cream that could”.

Dr Gabriele’s accolades do not begin nor end with the creation of the Delivra™ system. He maintains a role as Researcher and Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences with McMaster University. His lab discovered a novel 40kDa protein tightly linked to dopaminergic activity. The team demonstrated that among patients with psychotic illness there is depressed expression of this protein. Furthermore, among patients who have undergone successful, long-term treatment with antipsychotic medications, the expression of this protein reaches normal or nearnormal levels. Of tremendous interest is how this research has progressed; in preclinical models of psychosis in experimental animals, as well as models of Parkinson’s Disease in animals, injection of an isolate of this protein has been shown to provide tremendous symptomatic relief for both disorders.

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IHP is grateful to Dr Gabriele for allowing us to showcase his many areas of research to you. It seems like everything this gifted scientist touches turns to gold! An industrychanging innovation in topical medication delivery, an advancement in preclinical psychiatric research that holds promise as a safe and effective solution for two important and debilitating disorders (and likely beyond)… And all of this achieved in what has been a career in science not yet a decade old. We can not help but imagine where Dr Gabriele may have taken us had he chosen to pursue academia instead of clothing sales all those years ago, yet we are certainly grateful he entered the research arena as a second career path. We remain eager to see further advancements of the Delivra™ system, clinical application of the dopaminergic protein, and whatever else Dr Gabriele may chose to apply his efforts to.