Cargill says interest from the pharma industry for its seaweed-derived excipient is growing as it invests $15m (€11.3m) into its French alginate production plant.
Minneapolis, US-headquarted firm Cargill extracts alginates from brown seaweed which are used predominantly as a thickening and gelling agent for food and drink applications. However, the firm told in-Pharmatechnologist.com, alginates used in drug manufacture and that demand is on the rise in the industry.
“Alignates are used in drug delivery systems as an excipient, dispersant and to control release agent,” said spokesperson Christine Nicolay.
In softgels they are used as a texturizing and gelling agent, she added, whilst in solid dose forms they prevent disintegration.
She continued: “Though they are mainly used in food, we do have a number of pharma customers and are seeing increased interest from the pharma sector.”
Seaweed Drug Delivery
One benefit of alginates is that it’s a naturally derived ingredient but the firm is still discovering further advantages over alternative gelling and texturizing excipients in drug delivery systems. According to Nicolay: “We jointly explore together with pharma players the possibilities and advantages of Cargill alginates.”
A 2003 study explored the controlled delivery of drugs from alginate matrix and concluded that "Alginate is a useful carrier for controlled delivery of a wide variety of drugs and other biologically active agents.
"It can be used to deliver acid-sensitive drugs and the drugs which irritate gastric mucosa. Alginate beads have good flow properties and hence can be easily filled into capsules or compressed into tablets."
Certain seaweed derivatives are already used commonly in the pharma industry, such as agar-agar and carrageenan, as a vegetarian alternative to animal-based excipients like gelatin, according to Stephen Payne, leader of a 2012 study titled ‘Inadvertent prescription of gelatin-containing oral medication: its acceptability to patients.’
However, at the time of going to press, a request by this publication for information on common usage of alginates had not received response from the International Pharmaceutical Excipients Council (IPEC) Europe.
The expansion at the alginate production facility in Lannilis, Brittany, will increase capacity, improve safety and enhance environmental processing. Furthermore, the firm’s expected increase in pharma clients can rest assured that supply will be secured, thanks to this $15m boost:
“Customers are looking for a secure supply of cost-competitive, sustainable and high quality alginates from a knowledgeable and reliable ingredients partner,” said Bente Korsgaard, Head of the alginates business for Cargill Texturizing Solutions. “Cargill’s investment in Lannilis – a strategically located alginates production plant with lifelong seaweeds extract experience – absolutely addresses these needs.”