WellGen, Inc., a biotechnology company headquartered in North Brunswick, NJ, recently announced that it had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with RFI Ingredients, a Blauvelt, NY-based natural ingredient manufacturer. The new partnership is designed to enhance the business of both companies and bring new natural products to the marketplace. According to the companies, products resulting from the collaboration will have a strong base in science, solid clinical support and affirmed GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status.
Seemingly poised at the crossroads of foods and pharmaceuticals, WellGen used the science of nutrigenomics to develop Alignomx, a proprietary bioinformatics model that uses gene expression data to determine optimal therapeutic areas for the company’s pipeline of proprietary natural products. Beyond that, the company employs in-house capabilities in nutrigenomics and natural product chemistry to develop proprietary medical foods.
RFI Ingredients was formed in 1989 and the ingredients it manufacturers are used in a variety of foods, functional foods and dietary supplements. The company’s product menu includes certified-organic ingredients and proprietary formulations. It also has two consumer brands: SoTru and PhytoRich.
The two companies came together as a result of a mutual business connection. “As we learned more about each other we saw a complement of capabilities and a mutual interest in developing high quality, safe and effective natural products,” explained Patricia Lucas-Schnarre, WellGen’s vice president of marketing and product development. “By each company doing what we are best at, we can pursue high growth opportunities more efficiently to deliver products with genuine competitive advantages.
“WellGen discovers and develops proprietary nutraceuticals primarily for medical food applications,” she continued. “This requires understanding the chemistry of natural products, evaluating the potential for therapeutic benefits through nutrigenomics and other research tools, then investing in clinical studies to support measurable consumer benefits and product claims. As we advance the research program, WellGen wants to be sure that we can deliver a high-quality material/ product consistently. RFI has a vertically integrated supply chain model to help ensure safety and quality. Additionally, RFI believes in creating value through intellectual property (IP). This aligns well with the WellGen model.”
The MOU connecting the two companies serves as a framework for collaboration on several high-growth opportunities: the creation of new medical foods for people with inflammation-related diseases for which there are major unmet needs; the creation of new dietary supplement and functional food products for consumer and healthcare professional markets; and the development and supply of natural ingredients with strong scientific and clinical support.
“Both companies have been acknowledged for their innovation and share a common interest in developing proprietary, high-quality products supported by strong clinical evidence,” added Dr. Roddy Carter, president and chief executive officer of WellGen. “This collaboration will couple WellGen’s scientific and clinical know-how with RFI’s infrastructure and expertise in the natural products market.”
Ms. Lucas-Schnarre went on to explain how the relationship will evolve moving forward, with WellGen tapping into its competencies in nutrigenomics and other pharmaceutical-caliber research tools to determine the best therapeutic area for natural products. “Before we invest in clinical studies, we want to be certain that we can get consistent high quality material for a commercial product,” she said. “RFI has broad capabilities and a tremendous network to tap into in order to develop a consistent supply of natural product ingredients. That’s what WellGen wants for our medical food products.”
She also said that unspecified initial projects have indicated that this could be a great long-term relationship. “RFI has brought interesting proprietary ingredients to WellGen which we are evaluating through our nutrigenomics and other research platforms. And WellGen has enlisted RFI’s help in establishing a supply chain for a patent-pending natural product that has great anti-inflammatory benefits.”
She did not specify when the companies expect to realize the first fruits of the collaboration. “We both agree that the future of natural products will rest on high quality and safe products and ingredients that have sound science backing them—together we can create and market products with significant competitive advantage.”