Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


VOPSA2.0 Report Summary

Project ID: 738661

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - VOPSA2.0 (Value Omega 3 and Astaxanthin products from SeaAlgae)

Reporting period: 2016-10-01 to 2017-09-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Global demand of food supplements and specific bio-products from natural sources for human use is greatly increasing. Moreover, the more number of products with a healthy role, the better results in both research and market. Different compounds derived from organisms such as Omega-3 fatty acids and the carotenoid Astaxanthin have an incredible market potential. Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the model substances in cardiovascular disease prevention. Similarly, its consumption brings a good nervous and visual systems development. Astaxanthin is characterized by having a great antioxidant feature (the elimination of oxygen free radicals, which are able to produce cell damage). On the other hand, it has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, providing both antioxidant effect and a anti-inflammatory protection in several organs such as eyes and central nervous system cells. This unusual attribute converts this high-value added compound in a potential substance to prevent serious diseases such as Alzheimer and dementia.
Traditionally, target compounds of the Project were obtained from fish oil, usually salmon species (Omega-3) or were made by chemical synthesis or other natural sources such as oceanic krill (astaxanthin). Indiscriminate fishing of these aquatic species linked to expensive processes involved in chemical synthesis made such substances unsustainable. These protocols may affect to ecosystems and environment. Simultaneously, animal sources proposed to obtain this type of high-value added compounds omitted, in a market point of view, the vegetarian and vegan sectors who are the main consumers of functional/healthy substances.
VOPSA Project, led by NEOALGAE technology-based company in cooperation with BIOCOSOME proposes microalgae source to obtain these compounds. Microalgae are high-easy culture microorganisms and have a growth rate close to bacteria or yeast, allowing a great productivity in terms of biomass production in a short period of time. In addition, they are able to accumulate those high-value added compounds (Astaxanthin and Omega-3 fatty acids) under certain environmental conditions. Once natural source was identified (species Nannochloropsis gaditana, Isochrysis galbana or Haematococcus pluvialis) its cultivation to industrial volumes, the extraction of high-value added compound and its incorporation into stable molecular structures which allows a better assimilation for the body and its final conformation in market products were main milestones of this research.
The main goals of VOPSA 2.0 project are the following:
1- Development of the industrial production of Omega-3 fatty acids and Astaxanthin from microalgae:
2- Development of two final products, Bicomega-3 and Bicoxanthin, to be included in dermocosmetics and cosmetics markets
3- Security analysis and bioactivity tests on three types of skin alterations/diseases
4- Creation of a comprehensive investor-ready business plan
5- Implementation of an EU IPR strategy
To sum up, VOPSA 2.0 project will be able to open new opportunities at research level, through the optimization of both biological and chemical processes. Moreover, it is performed a scaling-up procedure to reach industrial proportions. Such advances will allow a development of two products (Bicomega-3 and Biocoxanthin) based on bioactive compounds and high-value added, which may be included in different market fields such as cosmetics, dermocosmetics and pharmaceutics.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

WP1. Construction of the new industrial plant
A new production plant was achieved, reaching a total surface of 1000m2. The industrial plant was divided in two differentiated areas: Microalgae production area, where are located all culture systems such as bottles, open and close photobioreactors and the equipment for harvesting and collecting de biomass. The second area encompassed laboratories, storerooms and the office.
WP2 Industrial scale-up of the bio-production of Omega-3 and natural Astaxanthin
Different experimental set-ups were conducted by NEOALGAE for the three-species chosen in the project, covering several parameters both intrinsic and environmental.
The scaling-up from strain stage to open/close photobioreactors volumes were performed, achieving good results in all systems in terms of productivity. Finally, stress induction experiments were carried out in order to improve the amount of high-value added compounds inside the microalgae cells (Omega-3 fatty acids and astaxanthin).
Once the biomass was treated, it was added to a supercritical fluid extractor. Specifically, the equipment used CO2 as solvent agent, avoiding the dangerous use of traditional organic solvents such as chloroform or hexane. Thus, the process is environmentally friendly with a markedly sustainable focus. The final procedure was the compounds purification from the fatty (oily) extract by supercritical chromatography using CO2 as reaction carrier. By means of a parameter setting, the target compounds with an adequate purity were obtained.
WP3 Design and industrial scale up process for Bicomega3 and Bicoxanthin
BICOSOME used algae extracts rich in Astaxanthin and Omega 3 produced by NEO. Several prototypes were developed and characterized. Two prototypes, one per each bioactive, complied with the initial colloidal stability, and started the long term stability.
Initial safety tests and scale up activities have been initiated with these prototypes in order to assure the materials are safe for human use and scalable at production level.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Whereas microalgae topics have increased in importance during last ten years, the innovation in both microalgae optimization and final products ready to be implemented in the market, have proved difficult. From VOPSA 2.0 point of view, innovative processes have been performed. For instance, a novel enriched-biomass mix (three different autotrophic species blended before centrifugation process) with great levels in Omega-3 fatty acids, are being constituted. Secondly, a novel protocol based on eco-sustainable Supercritical Fluids extraction has been validated with very good results. This technique will be optimized during industrial production of Omega-3 and Astaxanthin linked to the first work packages within the project. Because of its Eco feature, the traditional work with organic solvents was omitted in this research, easing the manufacturing of products in human food market. In fact, nutraceuticals (or healthy food) could be a great target of customers. Continuing with food topic, there is an important advantage in this project: the use of vegetal organisms allows the opportunity to reach alternative customer segments, such as vegan and vegetarian people.
Moreover, it was taking into account the safety (microalgae were cultivated in sterile-close photobioreactors). Closely to the last topic, NEOALGAE has obtained two certificates to manufacture food/feed products. Consequently, products would arrive to the market directly.
Due to develop of innovate Bicosomes, absorption and assimilation processes in human body have been improved compared to traditional liposomes. Also, product stability was improved allowing a better performance in the market.

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