Ayana Bio launches plant cell-derived echinacea & lemon balm

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

An echinacea plant can take 2 to 3 years to mature in the ground, but Ayana's plant cell cultivation could be produce ingredients in a couple of weeks, said the company's CEO.    Image © evgenyb / Getty Images
An echinacea plant can take 2 to 3 years to mature in the ground, but Ayana's plant cell cultivation could be produce ingredients in a couple of weeks, said the company's CEO. Image © evgenyb / Getty Images

Related tags Plant cell technology Sustainability Echinacea lemon balm sleep supplements mood support immune support

Boston-based plant cell tech company Ayana Bio has announced the first-ever launch of plant cell-cultivated lemon balm and echinacea ingredients, to use in supplement formulations for sleep, mood, and immune support.

The plant-cell derived ingredient can directly replace agriculturally-derived lemon balm and echinacea and aims to offer alternatives to overcome the supply challenges, including harvesting issues like adulteration, pesticides, contamination, inconsistent quality, seasonal weather variation, infection and limitation of active metabolites, said the company.

“Echinacea could be ready for use in a couple of weeks”

Ayana Bio CEO Frank Jaksch told NutraIngredients-USA that the plant cell cultivation technology starts by identifying the best plant cell lines—just like traditional plant breeding. These plant cells are propagated from real plants (similar to stem cells) and assessed throughout the cell cultivation process for important characteristics like bioactive potency, stability and purity, he said.

Ayana Bio plant cells cropped
Image courtesy of Ayana Bio

“We further identify the ideal plant cell line for standardized quality and then provide the nutrients the plant cells need to grow and multiply. This process is similar to brewing beer, but instead of growing yeast or bacteria, we grow plants directly from their cells in stainless steel tanks.

“By providing these cells with carbon sources, oxygen, vitamins, and minerals, we can produce the same plant biomass but without all the resources needed to grow plants in the ground and extract their valuable bioactives.”

Jaksch added that, with plant cell cultivation, the plant cell is fully propagated in a matter of weeks, and the company harvests it as an ingredient for health and wellness products.

“Imagine a world where a plant like echinacea, which takes about 3 years to mature in the ground, could be ready for use in a couple of weeks with plant cell cultivation. The end product could be echinacea biomass with an identical molecular mixture as soil-grown echinacea.”

High bioactive contents, rich spectrums

Jaksch explained that Ayana identifies superior cell lines from a large library of traditional, authenticated plants, and they then optimize the plant cells and monitor the bioactive profile to select the cell lines with the highest bioactive content and the richest spectrum. The plant cell-cultivated alternatives are genetically identical to the plants themselves, he added.

“We propagate and scale these optimized cell lines, which allows us to obtain standardized high-quality phytocomplexes at levels consistent with or better than botanical extracts.

“Since our process doesn’t involve any genetic modification of these plant cells, our ingredients are equivalent to the natural echinacea ingredients that are currently on the market, produced via botanical extraction,” he said.

Ayana Frank Jaksch headshot
Frank Jaksch, CEO of Ayana Bio

Jaksch also pointed out these plant cell cultivated alternatives also differ from the synthesis of compounds from microbes like yeast, in which single molecules found in plants are produced but do not include the full spectrum of bioactives.

“Plant cell derived phytocomplexes deliver the unique “cocktail” of molecules only present in plants that can’t be replicated with one molecule alone,” he said. “This is a superior advantage that allows formulators to use these plant-cell alternatives while relying on existing research from their botanical counterparts.”

Jaksch confirmed that the ingredients are now available for CPG partners to purchase.

“We have already begun discussions with potential partners, focusing on those in the dietary supplement space. We look forward to announcing partnerships and seeing our ingredients in their products in the near future,” he said.                                                                                                               

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