The ingredient is being branded as EicoOil to emphasize the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) content. There are already algal firms offering EPA-rich oils, but what differentiates the Qualitas oil is that its EPA is bound with polar-lipids (phospholipids and glycolipids) – similar to krill oil, said the company.
Extracted from a non-GMO ocean strain of microalgae, studies by the company indicate that EicoOil has “similar bioavailability to krill”, Yuri Shoshan, CEO of Qualitas Health, told us.
The company is offering samples to customers “now”, said Shoshan, with commercial quantities expected Q3/Q4 of this year.
“The oil is EPA only – that is just a fact of the oil,” said Yuri Shoshan, CEO of Qualitas Health. “This alga knows how to make EPA, but not DHA. There is a hole in the market and a strong need for EPA-only.”
Indeed, EPA is known to be the main omega-3 for reducing triglycerides for cardiovascular health, he said.
In addition, a recent meta-analysis in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry (Sublette et al. 2011, Vol. 72, No. 12, pp. 1577–1584) concluded that “the amount of EPA unopposed by DHA may be critical for effective PUFA supplementation in depressive episodes.
“At present, our knowledge base supports the use in acute depression of omega-3 supplements containing at least 60% EPA, with a ceiling at around 2,000 mg of EPA in excess of DHA,” concluded Sublette et al.
As with most algae companies, Qualitas has ties to the biofuel industry. The company was founded by Dr Isaac Berzin, a pioneer in the algal field and an MIT scientist.
Shoshan explained that, “along the way we found specific strains of algae with the highest possible EPA to DHA ratio. We changed direction to optimizing the omega-3.”
A full scale production facility is being completed in Texas, and the company is using the open pond system. “Texas is a perfect location,” said Shoshan. “It’s a perfect combination of non-arable land, a source of non-drinkable, brackish water, and climate that allows us to produce this EPA-rich oil in a cost effective way.
“Our ingredient has no impact on the marine food chain at all.”
No final pricing has been announced yet, but Shoshan confirmed the company sees it as a “premium product”.
The oil is being made available to supplements initially, he said, and the geographic focus will be the US in 2013.
A strategic partnership was announced recently with Valicor Renewables to accelerate the launch of high-EPA omega-3 oil.
Dr Berzin said that exclusive access to Valicor’s extraction technology gives Qualitas a “significant technological advantage and reduces the time-to-market of our pure-EPA omega-3 oil from algae.
“It completes the necessary portfolio of technologies needed to manufacture an algae-based omega-3 supplement on a commercial scale.”
Valicor’s extraction technology allows the natural algae polar lipids to remain intact while avoiding the use of potentially harmful solvents.
EicoOil also naturally contains other beneficial compounds including carotenoids, Omega-7, CoQ10 and chlorophyll, said the company.
“The market is looking for pure vegetarian, sustainable omega-3,” said Shoshan. “The EPA-piece is very exciting.”