Oxidative stress is what happens when the body’s free radicals (oxygen-containing molecules with an uneven number of electrons) and antioxidants get out of balance. Common causes include acute inflammation, high-fat and high-sugar diets, smoking, alcohol and pollution. If left untreated, it can result in cancer, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, stroke and a compromised immune system. One of the most effective ways of treating oxidative stress is with astaxanthin, a naturally occurring antioxidant found in such microorganisms as algae and yeast, which we typically get by eating fish or shellfish. Unfortunately, due to its low concentration and foul smell and flavour, the dietary intake of astaxanthin remains limited. But due to the work done by AstaFerm™ this is about to change. Thanks to the support of the EU-funded AstaFerm project, NextFerm, the company developing AstaFerm™, has optimised the extraction process and scaled up production – both of which are key to bringing its solution to market. AstaFerm™ is a new form of natural astaxanthin obtained via an innovative yeast-fermentation process. Due to its unique source (yeast) and processing method, AstaFerm™ is a highly potent, free-flowing material that is odour- and flavour-free. “Not only is AstaFerm™ an effective and applicable antioxidant, it also has the potential to improve the immune response to infection, as well as facilitate recovery,” says Tzafra Cohen, senior vice-president of R&D at NextFerm.
At the heart of the project was the development of an exclusive, non-GMO, Phaffia yeast strain capable of producing astaxanthin at the highest level ever reported. With industrial-level production achieved, the project then conducted an in-depth human ex vivo study to confirm AstaFerm™’s antioxidative activity. The results clearly demonstrated that the consumption of AstaFerm™ increases protection against ex vivo blood lipids’ peroxidation. “The project confirmed that AstaFerm™ is the most advanced, state-of-the-art, efficient and sustainable natural source of non-GMO, high-quality astaxanthin,” adds Cohen. During the project, NextFerm also further developed an effective application for introducing the necessary concentration of AstaFerm™ into the body via gummies and cold-water dispersible powder. “Because it is highly potent and has a neutral flavour and odour, it is readily applicable as a natural ingredient in nutritional gummies,” says NextFerm CEO, Boaz Noy.
Ready for market
With a proven product in hand, the project next turned its attention to developing the global, cost-effective supply chain needed to bring a range of products to market. “The challenge here was that we needed to transfer both the fermentation and extraction/purification technology from lab scale to pilot scale,” explains Noy. “This meant a lower than expected yield and capacity, which required us to make changes in our processing aids and system controls.” With the supply chain set up, AstaFerm™ is set for launch onto the US market in 2020. The company is currently seeking the relevant regulatory approvals needed to expand into new markets, including Europe and Asia. At the same time, NextFerm is also studying potential new benefits for astaxanthin – research that could be particularly relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Thanks to the support of EU funding, we have positioned ourselves as an industry leader, not only in the industrial production of astaxanthin, but also in innovative, natural healthcare solutions,” adds Noy.
AstaFerm, AstaFerm™, astaxanthin, immune response, oxidative stress, antioxidants, NextFerm, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, stroke, immune system, COVID-19