LipiSperse is essentially a cold water-dispersible chemical delivery system designed to increase the bioavailability of ingredients and compounds that are not water-soluble by ensuring their particles are not too large to enter the pathways leading to the bloodstream and lymphatic system.
Research on repulsion
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, RV Venkatesh, MD of Pharmako's North American distributor and partner Gencor Pacific, said: "One of the challenges we've seen in the nutraceutical industry is that there are many high-quality products with poor absorption rates because they are not water-soluble; they may be only lipid-soluble, or soluble in very specific solvents.
"Most of the time, when we look at a lipophilic substance — especially a powder — we find that the particles tend to stick to one other. We noticed the same issue when developing two of our recent products, HydroCurc and Levagen. Because they stick to each other, they start clumping together, and the bigger particle sizes have a surface area that does not allow for proper absorption.
"The human body is such that water-soluble substances are digested and dissolved in the stomach, whereas lipid-soluble substances are inducted into the lymphatic system. But first, the particles have to survive the stomach's acidic atmosphere and go through the induction pathways before being absorbed into the bloodstream so the body can better make use of them."
He added that since the aforementioned pathways are typically narrower than 50 microns in diameter, Pharmako had to find a way to prevent the particles from sticking to one another, so they would retain their small size and be efficiently absorbed through the induction pathways and into the bloodstream or lymphatic system.
It was on this basis that LipiSperse was designed: to create a repulsive force among the particles to prevent them from sticking together. The technology coats each particle with a specific matrix, so that when it touches any surface within water — whether in a glass, bottle, or the gastrointestinal tract — its surface tension is reduced and a molecule of water to surrounds it, creating a repulsive rather than an attractive force.
"Because the particles don't clump together, they remain small and are homogeneously dispersed in the body. As such, they are better inducted into the lymphatic system and bloodstream."
So far, the technology has been used in Gencor's curcumin powder HydroCurc, as well as its clinically studied form of palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), Levagen.
Regarding the latter, Venkatesh said: "It has very good anti-inflammatory properties, and we’ve run clinical studies on its joint care effects. However, it is poorly water-soluble, so we used LipiSperse to create Levagen+, a water-dispersible version to increase blood absorption and provide more options for formulation."
Traditionally, lipophilic substances are formulated into tablets, capsules and soft gels. With LipiSperse, which allows Levagen to be homogeneously dispersed in water, Pharmako was able to produce a powder formulation that could be used in ready-to-drink beverages, smoothies and shakes.
Venkatesh further said: "We can even make effervescent tablet formulations of HydroCurc and Levagen, which we could not previously do. Millennials prefer shakes and shots over the traditional tablets and capsules.
"They feel taking a tablet or capsule may signify they are unwell, but flavoured functional beverages are seen as fun and fashionable to consume. And with LipiSperse, those are the kinds of products we are able to make."
Outside of Gencor's own portfolio, the technology has also been used in Veri-te, pharmaceutical firm Evolva's proprietary resveratrol product.
LipiSperse is available to "selected partners", and has also been tested on quercetin, boswellia and ashwagandha, though no specific product has been developed for the ingredients.
Venkatesh said: "We have applied the technology to quite a few herbs on an R&D basis and found it successful, but commercially, we have not launched any product. If we find a suitable partner, we will definitely be open to developing and launching something."
Pharmako has elected to be selective about whom it allows to use LipiSperse, with the bigger picture and long-term goals important factors in its decision-making.
Venkatesh added: "We work with certain partners we see a long-term future with, whereby we can have a mutually beneficial relationship and promote their products using our technology.
"We are discussing multiple partnerships for very specific products, but I can't reveal anything yet. We are happy to provide our delivery system to these partners as long as their products don't clash with our core items, and we don't have to compete with them."