Anthony Almada received his MSc in nutritional/exercise biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, and has been a co-investigator on more than 90 clinical trials in nutrition. He is the co-founder and past president of EAS, the company that introduced creatine and university research-validated physique nutrition to North America.
Fi: You've long been an advocate for more and better science. How would you describe the state of science today. Is the natural products industry improving?
AA: I do see more and I see better, but on a larger scale because of more companies, more growth. You find more junky studies and poor science. About a decade ago people were crying for studies and evidence and science. Companies claimed, "Well, we can't afford to do them," which continues to be a massive copout. Every company with revenues of more than $1 million can afford to do studies in humans. And they can afford to do them in the USA because they're marketing to people primarily in the USA – not in Cameroon, not in India, not in China. If you're selling to people in North America, do those studies with people in that same ethnic and biologic make.
What will be a significant improvement will be two things: companies biting the bullet and registering their clinical trials with a registry, which then puts out a date stamp and a declaration to the public.
Think about the last time a product was pulled from the shelves not because of FDA action but because the company said, "You know what, we just did this study and we thought it [the product] didn't work, so we're going to remove it from the market because we were wrong, it does not work." That never happens. You'd be shocked as to how many studies are done on products in commerce that meet the description of a study showing it didn’t work.
Fi: Are you seeing an increase in strategic patent alliances between companies?
AA: It's rare. What you typically see is the patent portfolio is acquired, so DSM buys Martek and all their patents. With a strategic patent alliance we have the wonderful benefit of something that has already been patented. For example, Sabinsa's BioPerine patents have undergone litigation challenges and prevailed, and reexamination by the patent office, which gives it almost a Kevlar vest of strength against competitive threats, which is a fantastic position to be in.
Fi: How much does it cost to do a study? What should companies be budgeting for a basic, decent study?
AA: Only about one in 1,000 branded ingredients or finished goods have evidence in humans on the actual product. It's an incredibly small number. So doing one small study instantly elevates your branded ingredient or finished good to a much higher level than the vast majority of the competition. That one small study could be $35,000. There’ve been studies for $15,000 and they've been published. It all depends upon what you're trying to achieve.
The first pilot study, which basically puts that ingredient or product on the map, doesn't cost a lot of money. It easily can be done for under $50,000.
One other direction would be 2-5 percent of top line revenues. It's just an executive decision from the top because the money is always there.
Fi: Your daughter Eva is 6 1/2 now. Is she going to follow in your footsteps? Are you grooming her to be your successor?
AA: I'm grooming her to go after what she wants. If that's being a scientist, a physician or in the nutrition industry, bravo. If it's becoming an artist or attorney or a media specialist, bravo on that, too. I have taken her to trade shows and to two contract manufacturers. Got her gowned up and hair knitted. She was quite fascinated with the sights and the scents, and she felt like a little scientist for the day. That was cool.