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Unigen pens 100-year plan

By Clarisse Douaud , 26-Oct-2006

Unigen Pharmaceuticals is taking strategic planning to ambitious new heights with a 100-year business plan, which is the rationale behind the botanical ingredient company's new hires and internal shuffling of late.

Based in Lacey, Washington and in Korea, Unigen studies plant extracts at the gene level in order to gain an understanding as to how they affect gene expression. The company is dedicated to the discovery of botanically derived therapeutic compounds for use in nutraceutical, functional food, cosmeceutical and pharmaceutical products.

As part of the lengthy process of unleashing botanical ingredients through its research and development pipeline, Unigen is investing heavily in human capital in anticipation of a century down the road - when it foresees accelerated convergence of the nutraceutical and cosmetics industries.

"We do have a 100-year business plan and there are key stepping stones that we are diligently attaining," newly-hired vice president of sales and marketing Douglas Lynch told NutraIngredients-USA.com at SupplySide West. "Part of this comes from our corporate culture being first Korean-based."

The company's founder in Korea, Bill Lee, is behind the 100-year plan for the Econet companies of which Unigen forms a part, vice president corporate communications and governmental affairs Susan Haeger told NutraIngredients-USA.com.

Haeger was not able to reveal specific details of the plan. However, internal movement and new hires at Econet suggest the company is laying the groundwork for when the ingredients (of which the majority are still in development after four years) are ready to come to market.

"Business has grown fairly substantially in the past two years," said Lynch. "We've had pretty dramatic growth and we're making choices to support it."

Other recent developments in the company have included the promotion of Regan Miles from COO to CEO of Unigen. It has also hired three new scientists and is in the process of hiring several more. Unigen Korea and US combined now have over 50 PhD scientist on staff.

"Our next stage of growth is Europe," said Lynch. "It's our expectation to take the success we've had in the US and duplicate it with our European partners."

Lynch said Unigen is anticipating its ingredients will soon be cleared of the lengthy novel foods regulatory process in Europe. The company will target Europe because of its large population and unified regulations under the European Union, according to Lynch.

And while Lynch would not divulge the exact companies Unigen is partnering with, he said they are "Fortune 100" companies.

One trend Unigen is looking to capitalize on is what Lynch called combinations of 'in and out treatments', often referred to as cosmeceuticals, which he said are becoming the norm as traditional cosmetics companies branch into the area.

Lynch indicated the Unigen pipeline of products is "extremely active" and that the company has a dozen proprietary commercial products to date, and will launch many more in the next two to five years.

The company's health targets for botanical ingredients are centered around: heart health, cancer, diabetes, energy, obesity and joint health. It says it selects compounds according to market activity.

The Econet group of companies grew out of aloe ingredient supplier AloeCorp, which was established in 1988. Unigen Pharmaceuticals then emerged out of the research and development branch of the Econet companies.

Unigen describes itself as a vertically integrated company thanks in part to the structure of Econet.

"By owning the farms it allows us to cultivate in the best soil and harvest at the exact time of year when the ingredients are at their peak strength and consistency," said Lynch. "And then distribute to our partners and make the best packaging available to them."

Unigen's sister company, Univera LifeSciences, is devoted to the study of 'healthy aging' and has announced construction of a 40 acre campus in Washington.

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