Drug startup Sulfagenix uses small amounts of hydrogen sulfide to stymie damage to the heart

hydrogen sulfideIn high concentrations, hydrogen sulfide is highly poisonous. But in the small amounts naturally produced by the body, researchers have found that it actually provides many benefits to humans.

“Through our work and the work of others, we know that hydrogen sulfide therapy is very effective at preventing and treating cardiovascular disease in a variety of animal models,” said Dr. John Elrod, an assistant professor at Temple School of Medicine and co-founder of a new startup called Sulfagenix. “We now also know that sulfur plays an important role in numerous other diseases associated with oxidative stress, including cancer and diabetes.”

Sulfagenix, based near Cleveland, is taking compositions of sulfur molecules licensed from a Mexican company called Nuevas Alternativas Naturales Thermafat, S.A. de C.V. and developing prodrugs that would increase hydrogen sulfide levels in the body.

Its lead molecule, SG1002, is being developed as a medical food that Sulfagenix thinks could be a safe and effective means of increasing hydrogen sulfide levels in patients with congestive heart failure. In animal models, hydrogen sulfide has demonstrated the ability to protect heart function after heart attack by stimulating the heart muscles to produce antioxidants and molecules that prevent cell death.


In human studies conducted in Mexico, the molecules that Sulfagenix licensed demonstrated safety in humans and produced promising results in cancer, high cholesterol and Down’s Syndrome, according to the company. And the concentration of the compound used in these studies was far below levels considered to be toxic.

The startup’s CEO is repeat entrepreneur Anthony Giordano, who also heads up another Cleveland company called TheraVasc that’s repurposing sodium nitrite as a treatment for peripheral artery disease. He was not available to comment for this story. Also on the team is Chief Scientific officer David Lefer, a professor of surgery at Emory University School of Medicine who’s behind much of the recent research on hydrogen sulfide.

In addition to its lead product, Sulfagenix is developing additional products to address other diseases associated with oxidative stress.

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