efficacy of herbal medicines is being increasingly recognised
now in the developed countries, particularly because of their
holistic effect on the body and minimal side effects. The
result has been that what was once an exotic and esoteric
product line confined to speciality shops is now rapidly becoming
mainline merchandise in western supermarkets. The fact that
these "phytoceuticals" do not need clearance by
the Federal Drug Administration in the U.S., as they are natural
products, has helped in marketing them in that country.
waves in this field is an Indian scientist entrepreneur,
Dr. Muhammed Majeed, who had migrated to the U.S. In 1974,
A. Ph.D. in Industrial Pharmacy from St. Johns College
in New York City and held progressively responsible research
positions with U.S companies such as Pfizer Inc., Carter Wallace
and Paco Research. Before quitting in 1988 to found his own
enterprise, Sabinsa Corporation. He started with supplying
raw materials to generic drug companies. Inordinate delay
in getting his products cleared by the FDA because of some
internal upheavals in the agency ate up almost his entire
from Kerala, Indias spice State and famous for its Ayurveda
practitioners, Dr. Majeed was long familiar with the medicinal
properties of herbs. He felt that there could be a market
for herbal products in the U.S. Accordingly, in 1991 he establised
a 100 per cent export oriented associate company in
Bangalore, Sami Chemicals & Extracts (P) Ltd., which would
collect raw materials from India, process them and send them
on to Sabinsa Corporation in the U.S. for distribution there.
idea clicked and, because of its emphasis on application research,
standardisation and quality, pretty soon Sabinsa was outpacing
all its competitors in the natural products business in the
U.S. Its revenue grew many times between 1991 and 1995 to
reach $8.5 million; in 1997 the revenue was around $28 million.
Exports from Sami Chemicals crossed Rs.32 crores last year.
Indian company now has two factories at Kunigal (acquired
in 1993) and Shimoga (established in 1995) in Karnataka and
a quality control cum R & D centre in Bangalore. A new
corporate office on a four acre site at Nelamangala near Bangalore
is coming up. The total investment in India is of the order
of Rs.18 crores. On the cards is a speciality farm in Karnataka
to cultivate special herbal plants native to temperate regions
of the world.
the U.S., Sabinsa has expanded by setting up a distribution
facility in Utah and Internationally a marketing office is
being established in Japan this year. Says Dr. R.K. Bammi,
President (Research) of Sabinsa. :The Japanese market for
our products is expected to touch Rs.10 crores per annum in
the next few years."
is also expanding into areas such as indigo-based dyes used
to make blue jeans. A joint venture with a company in New
Jersey (U.s) will lead Sabinsa in to the flavours market.
A research centre in South Brunswick is developing new products
such as an extract from red wine to prevent heart attacks
and an anti-cancer agent from broccoli. A beginning as been
made in biotechnology with research on the use of enzymes
to accelerate chemical synthesis.
product portfolio of Sabinsa is now over 50 strong including
a vast range of phytomedicines and fine chemicals used by
the pharmaceutical industry.
distinguishes Sabinsa from other companies of its like is
the high emphasis given to R & D which unveils a new,
value added market for traditional natural products sold earlier
as low value commodities. For example, hot peppers are sold
in bulk at several rupees per kg. But the capsicum oleoresin
extract from hot pepper, usedin anti-inflammatory drugs, sells
perhaps at several hundred rupees per kg. However, even more
effective in neuropeptide activity is Capsaicin, one of the
components of capscicum oleoresin. Sami Chemicals makes an
extract containing as much as 95 percent capsaicin which sells
for as much as $4,000 a kg.
example us turmeric, an ancient spice that has for long found
use as a food flavour and in Ayurveda as a blood purifier,
stomach tonic, anti-inflammatory agent, cold remedy with milk
and skin healer. Recent research has shown that turmeric is
a richsource of certain phenolic compounds called Curcuminoids
having anti-oxidant properties which curb free radical activities
that lead to ageing problems. Sabinsas research has
come up with a unique prepration from turmeric called C3 Compled.
Ninety five per cent of this complex is made up of three different
curcuminoids ( bis- demethoxy curcumin, demethoxy curcumin
and curcumin) which together are most efficious in preventing
free radical activity. Needless to say, the C3 complex will
be of much higher value than traditional turmeric based preparations.
Sabinsa has pioneered in India the extraction of an anti-arthritic
preparation from waste prawn shells. This natural medicine
has no side effects, unlike the steroids used for arthritis
treatment in allopathy. According to Dr. Bammi, the Chinese
also have a similar preparation from prawn shells, but the
Sabinsa process is more economical since it is a single step
one compares to the multiple step process used by the Chinese.
the recent past, Sabinsa Corporation has come under attack
in India for a patent they have taken out on a particular
use of Piperine, an extract from black pepper. As usual, highly
emotional accusations have been made that Sabinsa is out to
monopolise the export of black pepper and its oleoresins by
the exercise of this patent.
is nonsense" says Dr. Majeed. "Sabinsas patent
is on the use of Piperine specifically to increase the bio-availability
of nutritional compounds such as vitamins, amino acids and
minerals. It is not a product patent and we cannot, nor do
we intent to, stop anyone from exporting black pepper Piperine
or its oleoresin from India. Because of our substantial investments
in research, development of new markets and clinical trials
for new uses of active principles in spices, much larger and
higher value markets have developed for the extracts from
Indian spices in developed countries. We deserve recognition
for this and not misinformed criticism."