Northeast Florida Roundup
Chemical break down
A Gainesville couple's company targets oxalate overload.
Innovation in Florida
Oxalate is a naturally occurring chemical found in most plant foods and is produced as an end product as the body metabolizes vitamin C. Some who consume foods with high levels of oxalate — including spinach, bran flakes, beets, potato chips, French fries and nuts and nut butters — can develop kidney stones or other problems, particularly if they consume too little calcium and too much protein.
While some people can benefit from a low-oxalate diet, few are actually aware of it. “There’s really nothing out there to assist with that,” says Helena Cowley, CEO of a firm called Captozyme in Gainesville, which she founded with her husband, Aaron.
A subsidiary of Captozyme launched a product last fall called Nephure, a powder that dissolves in beverages and is designed to help break apart oxalate.
Helena Cowley, who earned a master’s degree in bioengineering in her native Sweden, came to Gainesville in 2007 for an internship. While there, she met Aaron, who has degrees in biochemistry. She returned to Gainesville in 2009, and the couple started the company as they researched enzymes to treat oxalaterelated conditions.
The Cowleys earned recognition for their work before launching the product, receiving a Governor’s Young Entrepreneur Award from Gov. Rick Scott in 2015. Cowley hopes their work will lead to more awareness of oxalate and its possible impact.
“It has never been the goal to just push a product,” she says. “We want to be an educational resource.”