For many years, natural products have served as a major source of pharma and nutraceutical ingredients. They also play a key role as ingredients in cosmetic and food applications. Due to their enormous variety, methods used for the development and production of these compounds are diverse.
The discovery of a natural product includes several steps. The process begins with the production of a crude extract from a natural source, which is used for biological screening to identify the bioactive compound. Any target of interest is then processed further to achieve a single compound of high purity, which is tested thoroughly for desirable characteristics and functions. Once an active ingredient has been identified, the development of the production process can begin followed by optimisation on a larger scale. Before being incorporated into a final formulation, ingredients need to be preformulated in either a liquid or solid form to facilitate storage. This is crucial to protect the target material and for controlled or
TESTING AND QUALITY CONTROL
Natural products must undergo strict application testing before they enter the production process. The final product is typically tested for chemical stability and physical integrity under specific storage, transport, and use conditions. In the case of pharma applications, clinical trials can take several years
to complete and involve evaluating the drug mixture with animal, in vitro, and in vivo studies.
If the product is proven safe and efficient, it can be released for production.
Inspection of incoming goods and final quality control ensures the desired attributes of any natural product. Additionally, quality control during the production process helps to analyse the identity, purity and content of bulk material, intermediates, impurities and degradation products. Close monitoring of the process enables safe operation and ensures the product meets the required specifications.
PROCESSING STEPS AND SOLUTIONS
Labotec offers a range of laboratory equipment for the discovery, development, testing and production phases of natural plant processing. The first step in plant processing is cultivation. Labotec’s range of IncoGrow growth chambers have been designed for experimentation in the growth of plants, animals and insects. Another option is the Weiss Fitotron® HGC modular plant growth chambers with optional growth areas. If you’re looking for unsurpassed accuracy
and reliability in the control of temperature, humidity and lighting, the Weiss Fitotron® SGC120 plant and insect growth chamber
meets these needs especially for larger plants of up to 1.5m. Fitotron also offers walk-in high light intensity growth rooms and walk-in climate rooms.
The second step – milling – requires flexible, modular, fast and easy comminution. Also important in milling is the availability of
different options of inlet sizes, collecting vessels, and stands perfectly matched to your application. Available from Labotec, the Fritsch cutting mills are ideal for natural plant processing lab work. Plant extraction is the third step. There are various methods available to isolate active substances which can be fine-tuned to your specifications. For this step, the Büchi FatExtractor E-500 and UniversalExtractor E-800 are reliable solutions.
For step four, extract concentration, largescale rotary evaporators are commonly used to cover almost the entire range of solvent handling in plant production. Regardless of the method used for extraction, the solvent must be removed from the extract. Büchi’s Rotavapor® R-300 meets the highest expectations in convenience and versatility. Its modular design allows for the R-300 to be extended into a fully integrated system where a central interface regulates each component.
The fifth step is separation and purification of the different compounds of the plant extract. Flash chromatography is a suitable method for this with the Büchi Pure C-850 Flash Prep meeting your needs.
Any further processing constitutes step six in the process. With encapsulators for the encapsulation of active ingredients and spray dryers for handling samples to produce the highest yields, Labotec’s drying portfolio can be used for any R&D application. Included in the portfolio are Büchi’s new spray dryer and the B-395 PRO encapsulator.