“Indena sources plant material through a worldwide network of plantations owned by the company or controlled by the company through multi-year contracts with farmers under GACP (Good Agricultural Collection Practices),” said Christian Artaria, marketing director and head of functional food development.
Sales in the pharmaceutical sector generate about 65% of Indena’s business, with health food and cosmetic products accounting for 30% and 5%, respectively. In the pharmaceutical industry, the company mainly focuses on anti-cancer drugs—the goal being to document patented molecules up to Phase I/II clinical studies, and then license them to pharmaceutical companies.
Indena has also been active in the dietary supplement and functional food markets for more than two decades. Researchers are particularly interested in plant-based principles with antioxidant properties that can prevent damage caused by free radicals and chronic degenerative diseases. In the cosmetic field, Indena develops functional ingredients with specific applications for the skin care sector.
The company’s botanical ingredients include Mirtoselect bilberry, Leucoselect grape seed, Greenselect green tea, Opextan olive pulp and Siliphos silybin. New ingredients include Virtiva ginkgo biloba-phosphatidylserine complex and Meriva bioavailable curcumin, which launched in 2010.
“Meriva represents a breakthrough in curcumin ingredients,” according to Mr. Artaria. “Curcumin’s effectiveness has always been hampered by its poor absorption. To overcome this, Indena developed Meriva, a lecithinized curcumin formulation capitalizing on the basic tenets of the phytosome strategy to improve bioavailability.”
Formulation with soy lecithin increases the hydrolytic stability and significantly improves oral absorption, he added. “Its clinical benefits were proven in three long-term studies published in 2010. These studies, with more than 250 participants, demonstrated the effectiveness of Meriva for the management of two important and difficult to treat chronic inflammatory conditions: osteoarthritis and uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye).”
At Indena’s state-of-the-art research center in Settala, near Milan, about 70 of the company’s more than 700 employees are engaged exclusively in research. Cutting-edge technologies are used to develop processes and design new production equipment. Most of Indena’s production takes place at the Settala site, where 8000-10,000 tons of raw materials are processed each year. The site recently received ISO 14001 certification.
While economic uncertainty has impacted various industries, the nutrition sector has performed well, as consumers continue to use and evaluate nutritional products. To that end, a strong research and quality profile can make all the difference, according to Mr. Artaria. “Supplement manufacturers are more and more concerned with quality aspects due to increasing regulatory requirements (GMPs for finished products) and regulatory enforcement both from FDA as well as FTC. As a company, Indena is continuing to invest in its ingredients by maintaining and implementing its core differentiation aspects: quality and efficacy.”
As the company moves forward with its strategic goals, Indena’s founding principles of research and development remain firmly rooted. “Our primary goal with existing products is to further support their clinical evidence and to eventually look for new applications,” said Mr. Artaria. “For new ingredient identification, Indena is constantly screening entities from the plant kingdom to address unmet needs in the pharmaceutical and dietary supplement industries.”
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