Ole Miss adds training classes to help close gap in industry

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Chromatography

Ole Miss adds training classes to help close gap in industry
Finding personnel with quality control expertise is a yawning gap in the dietary supplement industry, one that the National Center for Natural Products Research is trying to fill with a new series of training courses.

Ikhlas Khan, PhD, is the director of the NCNPR, which is housed within the School of Pharmacy at the University of Mississippi.  The center has for a number of years hosted an international conference on botanicals each spring, which attracts those interested in natural products chemistry from around the world to the small university town of Oxford. Khan said the decision to offer the courses was a simple matter of listening to what attendees had to say at these meetings.

“What we were hearing was that companies don’t have enough people who have the training. There is a big need in the industry for more training,” ​Khan told NutraIngredients-USA.

There has been a growing emphasis by regulators and within the industry on having robust procedures in place to ensure proper botanical ingredient identification.  In conjunction with the American Herbal Products Association, GNC has instituted a set of ‘botanical GMPs’​ that cover how ingredients that go into the products on their shelves should be harvested, handled and tested.  Suppliers who want to do business with the firm are having to comply, and the effort is reverberating through the industry.  And testing issues continue to be a facet of warning letters from the Food and Drug Administration​. The net effect has been to create an atmosphere of scarcity in the market for adequately trained quality control personnel.

The center is planning its first series of courses starting on Sept. 19 of this year. The courses are divided into 3-day and 5-day offerings.  The 3-day course will focus on theoretical and practice information regarding botanical ingredient identification including modern liquid chromatography (LC) techniques and technologies. The 5-day course adds on mass spectrometry theory and its practical quantitative application to natural products.

Aimed at trainees with some knowledge

Khan said the courses are aimed at people working within the industry who are already familiar with HPLC equipment. The goal is to share expertise, rather than provide rigid blueprints for procedures. Natural products chemistry can be highly complex and some of the details are arcane.  Khan said he and his team discovered some of the issues connected with natural products identification and testing only through long experience with the materials.

“We are not telling them how to run their chromatography operations. The difference with our courses from some other training courses that are offered is that ours are entirely hands-on.

We are trying to give them the benefit of our experience, and what some of the pitfalls are,​ Khan said.

Lest the courses be nothing more than punching numbers on key pads and loading samples into machines, Khan said the goal will also be to include a guest lecture from experts within the industry or from academia or government agencies who can expand on issues critical to the sector.

Additional courses are planned for February, May and September of 2018.  The hands on, intensive nature of the training (Khan gave special notice to Waters Corporation, which is making test equipment available) means that for the foreseeable future the session size is limited to 10 participants. For more information or to register, click here​.

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