Biotech firm Conagen scales up high-purity salidroside production

By Asia Sherman

- Last updated on GMT

© Conagen
© Conagen

Related tags Rhodiola rosea adaptogens precision fermentation biotech

Massachusetts-based Conagen has announced the commercial production of its 99% pure salidroside, harnessing the adaptogenic potential of the Rhodiola rosea plant through bioconversion.

“We’re reimagining the way in which rare ingredients are sourced to make them safer and higher-quality for use in health-promoting products,” ​said Casey Lippmeier, PhD, senior vice president of innovation at Conagen. 

“Our bioconversion technology enables us to deliver non-GMO products. Through this technology, we’re unlocking salidroside’s great potential as a powerful active health ingredient and as a tool for food and beverage producers to adopt a more natural way to preserve food and beverages.”

The company highlights the converted compound's anti-stress, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.

‘One of the rare, natural molecules’

Salidroside – a glucoside of tyrosol – is an active compound of Rhodiola rosea​ (golden root), a perennial flowering plant grows naturally at high latitude regions of Europe, Asia and North America. It has been used as herbal remedy in ancient medicine to relieve depression, fatigue and stress and has been shown to alleviate acute mountain sickness. 

“Salidroside is one of the rare, natural molecules with proven adaptogenic activities which correlates to stress reduction,”​ said Lippmeier. 

“Initially identified in botanical extracts, adaptogens are promising new options in the quest to relieve the stress of our daily lives.​ This trend opens new opportunities for supplement brands and food and beverage manufacturers to adopt a health-focused profile for their products.”

He cites a 2021 paper published in Chemico-Biological Interactions​ that reviews salidroside’s biological characteristics and mechanisms of action, along with toxicological and pharmacokinetic data since 2009.  The authors stress the compound’s potency but note that “due to the severe growing environment of herbal medicine and large-scale excavation, the content of natural salidroside is extremely small.”

Conagen says that, unlike other salidroside products currently on the market, its product is non-GMO and developed as a “clean, sustainable salidroside, identical to the compound naturally found in the Rhodiola rosea plant”.​ 

Small-molecule natural products

Since its founding in 2010, Conagen has designed over 30 small-molecule natural products for commercial scale production using its proprietary technology platforms that tightly control fermentation to “dramatically reducing the chance of contamination with heavy metals, fungal toxins and other unsafe materials that may be found in traditional medicine preparations.”

The technology has also been used to naturally ferment antioxidants hydroxytyrosol​ (found in olives and wine) and p​-coumaric acid (a natural preservative) at scale. All three compounds are available through pipeline partner Blue California, which also supplies antioxidant Taxifolin BC-DHQ and natural preservative Rosavel rosmarinic acid from the Conagen portfolio.

Conagen also produces scalable next-generation stevia sweetener Rebaudioside M​, other steviol glycosides and bitter blockers as innovation partner for zero-calorie sweetness and taste modulator company Sweegen.

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