Botanically speaking: Indena highlights the link between health and plants species 


27 Feb 2018 --- Indena is leading innovation, development and production of active principles derived from plants, for use in the pharmaceutical and health-food industries. Recently, the company announced that the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation has renewed to the company the recognition to act as an organization carrying out R&D activities for the account of private companies. Indena received this recognition for the first time in 2011. Since then, it has always been renewed, but this time for a particularly significant period: five years, up to 2022.

R&D is one of Indena’s main pillars, since the beginning of its history, according to Luca Giorgetti, Managing Director at Indena. “The renewal of this status is further recognition of the daily commitment to creating added value for our existing and future clients. They will always be able to count on Indena as a partner of excellence: trustworthy and reliable.”

Speaking to NutritionInsight on the companies’ recent recognition, Cosimo Palumbo, Marketing Director at Indena, maintains the view that consumers are continually looking for natural and non-artificial ingredients. 

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Cosimo Palumbo, Marketing Director at Indena.

“There are two big trends Indena is paying attention to, as they are challenges coming from consumers and the market. The first is the need of ‘clean label,’ and one of our business units operating in the health food market area focuses on this. The second is the authenticity of botanical ingredients and Indena can meet this need too, thanks to its expertise built during 90 years of history,” he explains. 

For Indena, driving innovation in this space of health and pharmaceuticals is the voice of their consumers: “Attention on processing and production has increased among consumers. They are more and more aware of the close link between food and health, and pay more attention ever to the ingredients in the products they buy, to make the best choices for their health,” he notes. “Indena can count on a leading team of researchers and scientists, who have always been working with commitment and enthusiasm, bringing Indena at the highest levels of reliability. They communicate and interact constantly with the major international regulatory authorities such as WHO, EMA, FDA and ESCOP, and cooperate on the update of all the main pharmacopeias. One of the biggest challenges for us as a company is to continue this path with the same level of enthusiasm and proficiency. Indena’s purpose is double: to improve the high quality of the products always seeking excellence in botanical extracts; and to act proactively in the market, in order to raise the bar of quality, with the aim to make it a place where producers and consumers can find riskless and authentic products to sell or buy,” he claims. 

“When it comes to traceability, botanicals come directly from nature, so supply chains can be complicated, but they must be robust at the same time.” adds Palumbo. “Indena strives to be as authentic and transparent as possible. To get the best out of a formulation, we are only using food grade excipients, thus ensuring the highest grade of safety and efficacy,” Palumbo explains. 

Medicinal plants contain a real treasure that Indena extracts and that can be added to our diet to help us manage certain health issues that may benefit our lives. On the R&D side, are a number of innovations and a lot of research in that area which Indena is hoping to tap in to. 

“Whenever we do our R&D work, we keep in mind a few basic principles,” Palumbo says. “When we start studying how to put together a new product coming from a plant, we ask questions to ourselves, such as ‘What is the average intake in the Areas of the world where this edible plant is most consumed?’ Can we perfectly replicate in one extract with our rigorous GMP approach the natural composition of the original plant, providing at the same time the necessary quality assurance that only the botanical standardization offers? Take the olive, for example, rich in polyphenols ‘What does EFSA, or the FDA suggest as the best daily intake of olive oil?’ And we try to translate these recommendations coming from the most authoritative international bodies into botanical extracts that we want to validate clinically. Consequently, this will be the daily dosage that we will be suggesting to our consumers, scientifically proven with clinical studies on our extract. And that’s the starting point for us. If you do that, you try to mimic a dietary habit and if you are coming from an edible plant then why would you change that?” he questions.  

“We know that bioavailability and bio absorbability is something that consumers understand but maybe are not aware enough of their importance. Indena wants to inform them on the importance of these topics, telling how huge investments in R&D and a stunning commitment to excellence allowed Indena to develop products that are fully compliant with the International quality and regulatory guidelines and, at the same time, that is mimicking a dietary habit,” Palumbo notes. 

“Take curcumin as an example,” he continues, “In the Indian sub-continent, curcumin is traditionally consumed with milk or any other fatty meal. Few people know that there is a specific reason behind this” Palumbo confirms. “The reason is that fatty acids enhance the bioavailability of curcuminoids and, by mimicking a dietary habit (like in the famous Golden milk), that simple combination leads to an optimized absorption. If you mimic nature on a dietary habit you are still respecting those basic principles without interfering with our physiological pathways” he reveals. “Under the regulatory standpoint in the supplements and food space, there are many ways to achieve the same goals, and for our innovation and R&D platforms, we will continue to lead the cleanest, safest ways to exploit the best out of botanical sources.”

Indena is applying this notion to a few of their newest products and the results, so far, have been promising. 

“On the research and innovation side, Indena is focusing on gastrointestinal health, that is one of the most important health issue but also a wide area of interest, for a variety of consumers worldwide.  We believe this is going to be one of the fastest growing health trends that will continue to grow and we will go ahead paying attention to this.”

“We know that probiotics and digestion enzymes have been very popular in the gut health area, but also some botanicals, when formulated properly, showed interesting results that encourage to further explore them for the management of gastrointestinal issues,” Palumbo explains. 

Indena has also patented a new product called Prodigest, it includes a claim within its name, suggesting it is good to help with digestion and includes a patented combination of two standardized ingredients: a lipophilic CO2 extract of ginger roots (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) and a unique extract of artichoke leaves (Cynara cardunculus L.) that has shown benefits for improved digestion. 

“We know that only 120mg a day is effective to promote a quicker emptying of the stomach (one hour after a meal),” Palumbo states, “We know that digestion has always been an important health topic, and, with this new product, botanicals have been proven to be good for that.”

Indena’s Casperome (Boswellia Phytosome) studies show benefit relating to the gut such as a rapid alleviation of the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

“Recently a poster was presented on our leading ingredient Meriva, showing (in a preclinical study)  that curcuminoids when taken with Meriva, can penetrate the blood barrier and reach the brain easier, which is basic information before claiming any spectacular results without any clinical findings. Brain health and cognition is an area of which we plan to do more in; we will continue to work in the brain health sector with curcumin and our Meriva ingredient,” he says. Meriva is the patented Curcumin Phytosome by Indena, based on the scientific biomimetic approach; it helps in controlling that the natural inflammatory response does not turn into low-level chronic inflammation.

“Authenticity is part of our innovation for R&D platforms,” Palumbo claims. “We have recently partnered with a UK-based company, Hyris Ltd on a program that was launched at the end of last year concerning DNA barcoding for plants. It is down to evolution and Indena is adding other more methods regarding the quality of botanicals, a huge project we are working on since 2011 when we started integrating DNA sequencing into our Quality System anticipating this trend. This is a key topic for us and for the market, where adulteration is a serious concern. Indena is at the forefront and moves forward not only its market potential but also the whole industry itself, pushing it to raise the bar in quality standard requirements,” he concludes. 

By Elizabeth Green

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Indena S.p.A.


Indena is the world's leading company in the identification, development and production of active principles derived from plants, for use in the pharmaceutical, health-food and personal care industries.

Indena, a privately owned Italian company, has around 800 employees (10% of them dedicated to full-time research)  and has cultivation, manufacturing, and sales in more than 70 countries throughout the world.

The key to Indena's success is its research, covering: the screening of medicinal plants for pharmacological benefits; the identification of new active principles; the development of cutting-edge extraction and purification systems for industrial applications.

Phyto-chemical research is carried out in Indena's own Research Center in Settala, Italy. Indena also co-operates with the world's most prestige universities and private research institutes in the biological assessment of the safety and effectiveness of its products up to clinical phase I/II.

A key strategic research objective is the development of new active principles for pharmaceutical applications. This also forms an indispensable base for the health-food and personal care industries.

The pharmaceutical side of the company is focused mainly on anti-cancer drugs, which are produced to US-FDA, ICH and EU standards at Indena's High Containment Manufacturing facilities in Settala, Italy. Indena's drug discovery strategy is to develop new chemical entities up to "Phase I/II" of clinical studies, and then license them to pharmaceutical companies.

Today Indena is also concentrating its efforts on the industrial production of high-quality standardised botanical derivatives, which are important ingredients in health food products. In fact, the company produces standardised extracts from edible plants that are traditionally recognised as having therapeutic properties, as well as from plants that have proven pharmacological value. Indena's research and production activities are particularly attentive to plant-based principles that have anti-oxidant properties and prevent damage caused by free radicals.

Backed by more than 90 years of botanical experience, Indena has developed a plantation network, managed by experts, to supply its research and production centres with officinal plants, while ensuring bio-diversity and protecting the ecosystem from uncontrolled harvesting. Today more than 60% of the raw material used in manufacturing comes from cultivations.

Indena's decades-long global presence in the plant extraction industry is a guarantee of its in-depth knowledge and understanding of the business, market trends and legal considerations. There is constant communication and interaction between the company's experts, who cooperate on the updating of all the main pharmacopoeias, and the major international regulatory authorities such as WHO, EMA, and ESCOP.
The company has more than 150 primary patents and has published more than 700 scientific studies.