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A novel cost-efficient bioreactor to accelerate growth of valuable plant roots for nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals cosmetics

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Rhizomia (A novel cost-efficient bioreactor to accelerate growth of valuable plant roots for nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals cosmetics)

Reporting period: 2017-02-01 to 2017-05-31

Out of 391,000 plants known to a man, approximately 18,000 have documented medicinal effect and only 150 are cultivated industrially. Their active principles (or compounds) are extracted from the plants with special solvents.

The production of such compounds from plants cultivated by horticultural means or harvested in the wild is not sufficient to meet the growing market demand. Worse, harvesting of wild plants in many cases poses a significant threat to various species and to their ecosystem, as overharvesting can decrease stocks of the plant and lessen the biodiversity of the area.

For example, this growing demand has driven up prices of wild ginseng and attracted poachers. Illegal harvesting of wild American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) has become a significant issue in the USA. It is estimated that 90% of the ginseng harvested in the wild is obtained illegally. Biologists have already expressed concerns over the plant’s possible extinction. Similarly, populations of other plant species such as snakeroot (Rauvolfia serpentina) and devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) have declined due to over-collection to supply medicinal markets.

Plant roots provide many of the key active compounds found in nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food additives and other products. With Rhizomia bioreactors we can deliver the highest quality root cultures, leading the way for sustainable low cost in-vitro production of roots such as Panax ginseng and many others.

New sustainable production methods revolve around in-vitro cultivation in bioreactors. However, the main limiting factor is the plant biomass growth rate (e.g. state-of-the-art bubble column bioreactors only reach a doubling time of 20-30 days for ginseng roots). Existing bioreactors are unable to produce sufficient amounts of biomass and active molecules at economically attractive speeds, except for rare applications with a very high added value (e.g. expensive pharmaceuticals).

Existing root bioreactors in the most cases were designed by pharmaceutical engineers without cost constraints as they targeted high value applications. Our objective is to develop a low-cost bioreactor compatible with high-volume production where costs can be reduced by a factor X to target lower value applications such as nutraceuticals (nutritional products).

With Rhizomia we can supply higher quality dry ginseng matter with no pesticides, below or at the current market prices and with stable content & other chemical properties during any season.
"The key objectives of this SME-Instrument project were to determine the market feasibility of the Rhizomia technology. In particular : choice of root (with a focus on Ginseng), quality & client requirements, position to take in the value chain, pricing, marketing and sales model.

Work performed :

-25+ Client interviews.
-Comprehensive Ginseng market study.
-Deep dive in Ginseng science & quality requirements.
-Detailed ginsenosides benchmarking of 15+ commercial products

Key takeaways:

1. Ginseng is an attractive market for Green2Chem, given the Ginseng price, and the quality required.

2. Ginseng is a market with a low level of trust and transparency. This is because ginseng is often ""adulterated"" (= mixed with low-value products such as saw-dust), and quality control is complex and costly (in particular for the Chinese origin ginseng).
Dosage is also an issue and is difficult for end-consumers to control.

3. Our ginseng has a very high quality profile compared to most commercial products found on the market.

By testing 25+ clients with our ginseng, we have confirmed the market opportunity to develop our Rhizomia technology for some targeted applications, as a priority for Green2Chem's development.

An industrial phase is now going to be prepared and launched within 12 months.
Digestibility is a key trend in the food supplements market. Indeed, researchers are realising that many/most plant based products are not digested easily. The interaction with our gut flora is complex, and ginseng in particular tends to not be digested well especially when its consumption is occasional.

Traditionally, Koreans used to steam-cook their Ginseng (Red Ginseng), and realised it had changed. Modern research explains that this change is about making the ginseng easier to digest: cooking degrades glycolisations, and thus improves absorption.

We are now working with Nutritionists and Medical Doctors to optimise our product to become the best ginseng available (clean, balanced, potent and easy to digest).

Our next marketing step will be to demonstrate this achievement through in-vitro and in-vivo studies.

The Rhizomia technology is thus a new way to significantly improve the quality of our food supplements, starting with Ginseng, and expanding later to other important plant-based products.
Ginsenosides content analysis in a selection of Commercial Ginsengs