IBR (Israeli Biotechnology Research) was founded 10 years ago, with the aim of developing and manufacturing innovative and proprietary natural products and active ingredients.
Following an initial period of R&D, it first introduced a range of colourless carotenoids to the cosmetics industry in 2000.
Now it plans to offer the benefits to supplement and functional food makers, with two offerings under the PhytoflORAL brand: Phytoen and Phytofluen.
IBR's VP business development and marketing Liki von Oppen-Bezalel, PhD, explained to NutraIngredients.com that these are precursors in the biosynthetic pathway to pigmented carotenoids, such as lycopene and beta-carotene.
Phytoen has three conjugated double bonds and Phytofluen five - a distinction that means they have a slightly different absorbance spectrum and activity. Pigmented carotenoids, on the other hand, are full of double bonds and that is why they have colour.
Beyond being antioxidants, von Oppen-Bezalel said that they have the capacity to fight hydroxyl radicals - the most powerful radicals in nature, stronger than free radicals. They are also said to have an anti-inflammatory action, protecting the skin against inflammation and UV radiation, and can help protect the cardiovascular system by preventing oxidation of LDL.
It is anticipated that they will be used in dietary supplements, or in any food where an additional health benefit is desirable.
In addition to their own health properties, Phytoen and Phytofluen have been seen to work together with other ingredients like CoQ10 and pigmented carotenoids to boost their activity, stabilise the molecules and prevent degradation.
"We own the intellectual property and are the only company in the world to offer colourless carotenoids," said von Oppen-Bezalel. "It is a niche no-one has thought about. But pigmented carotenoids have some drawbacks. They are sensitive to degradation, and often colour is undesirable."
The oily liquids are derived from a special species of tomato or from algae, the growth conditions of which are manipulated to produce more carotenoids (not genetic modification, she stressed).
At present, IBR is currently looking for a partner in the nutraceuticals industry to help with distribution and marketing, and to advise on the necessary regulatory approvals. Pursuant to finding the right partner, von Oppen-Bezalel hopes PhytoflORAL will make its market entrance in the next six months.
IBR is a private company that was founded with the help of a grant from Israel's Ministry of Trade and Industry, which enabled it to initiate the research and start operations.
"Funding from the government is very helpful, and enables more companies to start up. Biotechnology companies need a bit of money at the beginning as it takes five or six years to start getting product into the marketplace," said von Oppen-Bezalel.
IBR is now free of its obligations under the grant, and is selling enough of its products to support the company's activities.
"We don't have a huge portfolio of products as we want ingredients that do not exist elsewhere in the market."
The company chose to launch its first products for cosmetics, as it judged that it would be easier to develop sales in the cosmetics arena.
The hunch proved right: IBR's cosmetics range - IBR CLC (colourless carotenoids), IBR AAC (anti-ageing carotenoids) and IBR TCC (tomato colourless carotenoids) - are now used by a number of well-known cosmetics companies.
In cosmetics, the colour issue is particularly pertinent. After all, "you don't want to put ketchup on your face".
A study investigating colourless carotenoids for cosmetics applications is due to be published in a peer-reviewed journal next month. No studies have yet been published on their nutraceutical uses.