AlgaeBio to ramp up production of algae-based omega-3s

AlgaeBio to ramp up production of algae-based omega-3s

With rare EPA-DHA ratio, AlgaeBio builds a buzz at Natural Products Expo West. Good business isn’t always a popularity contest, but in this case, it sure felt that way.

Andrew Ayers, co-founder and CEO of Algae Biosciences Incorporated, and Dr. Mark Edwards, AlgaeBio’s Vice-President of Corporate Development and Marketing, both attended the bustling Natural Products Expo West trade show on Friday, March 9 and Saturday, March 10 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif., helping to staff the Global Health Trax, Inc. booth.

AlgaeBio and GHT have a sales and distribution contract in place, giving Vista, Calif.-based GHT exclusive rights to purchase and distribute AlgaeBio’s ultra-pure, omega-3 fatty acid oils to the nutraceutical, food additive, and animal feed markets. And while GHT’s potential products, containing AlgaeBio’s algal oils, won’t be brought to market for a few more months, Ayers and Dr. Edwards fielded a non-stop stream of inquiries for two days at the busiest trade show in the natural, organic, and healthy products sectors.

“The opportunity we have is massive. And our main challenge is getting big fast enough — getting our production up to a scale that is large enough to take advantage of this opportunity,” says Ayers. “We look at Natural Products Expo West as a rather appropriate barometer for the market. That first day we were at the show, we didn’t stop talking until 3 o’clock in the afternoon.”

Later this spring, AlgaeBio will begin large-scale commercial production of its omega-3 fatty acid oils, sourced from marine algae and grown in the plentiful sunlight of northeast Arizona’s high desert plains near Holbrook. The initial output of AlgaeBio’s algal oils will contain equal parts of the long-chain essential fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) at a blended ratio of 40 per cent — and that’s what had the AlgaeBio-GHT audience abuzz at Natural Products Expo West.

“It was a totally new concept for just about everybody — that you could grow two different (strains), extract EPA and DHA separately, and then blend them. That was radical, new stuff, and people loved it. Some of them asked three times, because they just couldn’t believe it,” says Dr. Edwards.

The vast majority of competing products on the market contain one of these polyunsaturated fatty acids or the other, and most are purity challenged.

“We’re in a sweet spot, for sure. Some omega-3 products are marketed with trace amounts of one or both of EPA or DHA,” says Dr. Edwards. “And the concept that you could have a 50-50 blend . . . it was hard for people to comprehend.”

With the arrival and installation of the first 200 of AlgaeBio’s 1,500 proprietary bioreactors expected within weeks, and a $5-million, first-phase expansion of the company’s production facilities nearly complete, AlgaeBio is expecting to reach full commercial production of its algal oils during the second quarter of 2012.

Of all the polyunsaturated fatty acids, EPA and DHA are considered to be the most beneficial to the human body — particularly the heart, brain, joints, and cardiovascular system — and even more so when taken in tandem. A study conducted by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and released in the Feb. 28 issue of Neurology, suggests that lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with smaller brain volumes and worse cognitive performance. And a research study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, released this week, notes that increased levels of omega-3s, particularly DHA, could reduce the risk of atrial fibrillation, the most common form of irregular heartbeat in adults, by nearly 30 per cent.

While many visitors to the GHT booth were somewhat unfamiliar with the relatively new concept of algae-based omega-3 production, Ayers says AlgaeBio’s production process—photosynthesis, rather than fermentation — also raised more than a few approving eyebrows.

“The fact that our oil does not come from a fermentation vat means it contains all these other valuable compounds, many of which are antioxidants,” says Ayers, referring to chlorophyll, phytosterols, Vitamins C and E, and the carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein, and fucoxanthin. “That certainly got a lot of traction at the show.”

Packaged Facts, a U.S. market research publisher, recently remarked that the booming global omega-3 market is far from reaching saturation, and predicted that worldwide consumer spending on omega-3-enhanced food and beverage products (excluding fish), health and beauty care products (including nutritional supplements), and pet products would hit the $13-billion mark by the beginning of 2012.

Both Dr. Edwards and Robert J. Thompson, the Chairman of Algae Biosciences Corporation, will be attending the Algae Technology Platform USA conference at San Diego, Calif., from April 11 to 13. Algae Technology Platform USA is billed as the Americas’ leading commercial and technological forum for algae investors, entrepreneurs, process developers, and formulators.

AlgaeBio’s downstream opportunities include: pharmaceuticals, such as designer proteins, vaccines, enzymes, antibodies, and research agents; sustainable biofuels; macroalgae for human food; organic pigments that can replace synthetic dyes in food and cosmetics; organic compounds called carotenoids, which as potent antioxidants reduce cell damage and fight disease; and liquid feed for marine life.


ABOUT ALGAE BIOSCIENCES INCORPORATED: AlgaeBio is an Arizona biotechnology company that researches, develops, and manufactures ultra-pure products from micro and macro algae such as nutraceuticals, food additives, and pharmaceuticals. With access to near-perfect algae growing conditions, exclusive aquaculture access to a pristine brine water supply, and advanced proprietary technology, AlgaeBio produces superior human and animal consumable products, as well as offering advanced algae-based products and technologies for distribution into the agribusiness, biofuel, and aquaculture markets. AlgaeBio owns and operates large-scale production facilities near Holbrook, Ariz., and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Algae Biosciences Corporation.

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