Bioengineering the Sustainable Future of Medicinal Plants

2 Jun 2022

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Nature is a tremendous source of bioactive compounds that offer a wide range of medicinal benefits. These compounds have been explored and utilized in traditional medicine for centuries and underpin many modern therapeutics. However, in our pursuit to benefit from the healing powers of plants, some of our most precious natural resources have been over-harvested and overtaxed, while climate change and habitat loss due to urbanization and deforestation pose additional threats to these vital medicinal resources.

In Europe alone, more than 31% of medicinal plants are in or near decline, according to the European Red List, with overcollection being one of the primary drivers.i
What’s more, the threat of unsustainable supply chain models is only further exacerbated when the plant in question is rare or slow-growing, creating an urgent need for change that protects the natural ecosystems of medicinal plants.

That is why we are leveraging our HARMONY platform to learn from nature’s blueprint and precision-engineer pure, nature-identical compounds that promote human health and vitality without taxing nature. Our goal is to deliver bioactive compounds to the world at scale, enabling our team to fully explore their full therapeutic potential as pharmaceuticals or consumer wellness products.

Recently, our team took a major step in our journey to reshape the global supply chain of medicinal plant compounds, as we published data validating the safety of our sustainably produced, bioengineered salidroside. This key study supports that our bioengineered salidroside compound is a viable alternative to naturally occurring salidroside that is isolated from harvested Rhodiola plants for use as dietary supplements, food ingredients, or potentially as pharmaceutical products.

Rhodiola rosea is one of the oldest existing medicinal plants and is increasingly a part of consumer wellness products due to its range of health benefits. Research has shown that Rhodiola’s health effects are primarily linked to its production of the bioactive compound, salidroside. But there has been a cost to Rhodiola’s increasing use. Dating back to as early as 2012, research published in the Scientific World Journal noted Rhodiola rosea’s status as an endangered species,ii and in 2021, experts from the US, South Africa, Australia, and Germany, called for changes to the global Rhodiola rosea supply chain, as increasing global demand threatens wild Rhodiola sources.

We believe our now validated biosynthetic strategies for salidroside and other bioactive natural compounds can provide a sustainable solution to the growing ecosystem disruption of medicinal plants. Ultimately, our goal is to leverage our technology to offer a lasting solution that promotes the longevity and vitality of both people and the planet.

i Summary of key findings. European Redlist — Environment — European Commission. (n.d.). Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://ec.europa.eu/environme…

ii Tasheva, K., & Kosturkova, G. (2012). The role of biotechnology for conservation and biologically active substances production of rhodiola rosea: Endangered medicinal species. TheSci­en­tific­World­Journal. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p…

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