Sciadonic acid (SCA) is an unusual non-methylene-interrupted fatty acid that can be found in the seeds of a number of gymnosperms, an ancient family of plants whose seeds are unprotected by an ovary or a fruit. Examples include conifers, cycads and ginkgo.
Decades-long development history
Lipid chemist Alvin Berger, PhD, is CEO of the company, called Sciadonics, Inc., that he formed to develop the ingredient. Berger said story of the sciadonic acid, or SCA, is another one of those overnight debuts that took decades. Berger did much of his PhD work at the University of California-Davis on the acid, and came to appreciate its potential anti-inflammatory properties. But SCA was in the wrong place at the wrong time, Berger said, because his work coincided with the rise of fish oil.
“I had all this background in the late 80s and through the 90s working on SCA. I was watching the lipid space evolve around me and at that time it was all fish oil, fish oil, fish oil. When I first started developing a product everyone said there would be no market for it,” Berger told NutraIngredients-USA.
So Berger moved on to other things, including stints with Nestlé and Cargill and work on a different source of omega-3s from herring roe. He said he saw that space mature, and start to become commoditized, with suppliers moving to new forms of oil or higher concentrations in an effort to differentiate themselves and to stay out of the trap of having to compete solely on cost.
Berger announced that he has been granted a compositional patent for sciadonic acid, which he has branded as Delta-5, and various concentrations of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA as well as concentrations fo CLA (conjugated linolenic acid) in formulations.
Interest from CBD developers
Last year Berger formed a subsidiary called SciaEssentials to market the oil in a topical formulation, where he said the oil has shown benefits in managing various forms of skin inflammation. The new patent opens additional doors for the use of the oil in ingestible products, which was his initial target, he said. And it has garnered interest among developers of CBD and hemp oil products, he said.
“Under the new patent, still about 50% of the oil could come from another source, such as olive oil. But it could also contain hemp oil,” Berger said.
He said his experience has been similar to others in the dietary supplement space who are involved in manufacturing or formulation of lipid ingredients. Companies big and small are coming out of the woodwork looking for potential co packers or formulation partners for new CBD/hemp oil product launches. And in Berger’s case, he has some prior experience to draw on.
“I got involved in the CBD/cannabinoid space back when I was with Nestlé. They were trying to figure out what caused the ‘craving’ associated with chocolate, and they theorized that is was the cannabinoid molecules in the chocolate. We proved that was not the case, but that was my introduction to the science in this space,” he said.
The CBD space is rapidly becoming so crowded that it threatens to become commodified before it has really even begun, Berger said. So having an additional component such as Delta-5 could offer a crucial differentiator, he said.
“These areas tend to get commoditized very quickly. We have a number of patents around this concept of combining Delta-5 and phytocannabinoids. The two oils affect the endocannabinoid system in different but also in some overlapping ways,” he said.
“People are really encouraged me to jump in because what I can lend to it is credible science,” Berger said.
Berger said the SciaEssentials direct to consumer line was mostly about bringing in some revenue while he nailed down IP. He said with that backing, he will be prepared to announce major new funding in the next week or two.