In the course of 2016, the dietary supplement Systolite will most probably be launched on the US market. And after an extensive approval process, the product should be ready for the European market in the course of 2018.
“We have turned rocks into gold. It is an example to follow”, said Jaran Rauø, CEO of Marealis AS, when the product was presented to Norway’s Minister of Fisheries Per Sandberg and the press corps at the Stella Polaris shrimp factory at Kårvikhamn in Lenvik in March 2016.
Almost two decades have passed since the now retired senior researcher Asbjørn Gildberg was in charge of Nofima research where special peptides – hydrolysed proteins – in shrimp shell with an assumed blood pressure lowering effect where discovered.
“You might like to call it a by-product of a by-product. We were working on extracting chitosan from shrimp shell. In this process, large quantities of the protein went to waste. When the researchers added enzymes, in order to cleave the proteins in this residual raw material, high levels of the blood pressure reducing material were discovered. The first scientific paper on the discovery was published in 2002”, Gildberg explained during the minister’s visit to the shrimp factory in Kårvikhamn.
In 2007, the encouraging reports from the researchers in Tromsø caught the attention of the shrimp producers, and since 2008 Marealis, together with, among others, Nofima and the University of Tromsø, have been carrying out research, and developing and scientifically documenting the blood pressure reducing effect of the product from shrimp shell.
“Now we’re seeing the beginning a product’s success”, said Hans-Ove Semmingsen, Chairman of Stella Polaris AS and Marealis AS, during the Minister of Fisheries’ visit. Photo: Anne-May Johansen /Nofima.
“Nofima and the University of Tromsø have played decisive roles in the work that has resulted in our now being ready to launch a finished product. The contents of Systolite will be produced locally and distributed globally”, said Jaran Rauø.
Stella Polaris is sole owner of the bioprocessing company Marealis AS. The product’s name, Systolite, comes from the scientific term for blood pressure: systolic pressure. Having been tested on 222 people, where no negative side effects were registered other than five people who reported slightly upset stomachs, production will initially start at Nofima’s national facility for bioprocessing, Biotep in Kaldfjord in Tromsø.
The long-term plan is to build a factory for this production at Stella Polaris’ plant in Kårvikhamn. Marealis has, through its owner Stella Polaris, access of 6,000 tonnes of shrimp shells a year –representing the raw material needed for more than 200 million daily doses of the blood pressure-reducing dietary supplement.
“The shrimp industry was almost about to be put on the list of endangered species. There is no denying that there have been some lean years. Now we’re at beginning of a product’s success”, Hans-Ove Semmingsen, Chairman of Stella Polaris AS and Marealis AS, asserted under the Fisheries Minister’s visit.
In Europe and the United States, between 20 and 25 per cent of the population are currently taking blood pressure medications. Along with what they refer to as selected national and international market partners, Marealis AS now intends to sell the product to end-users.
About half of the cost of research and product development has been funded by the industry operator itself. The rest comes from the Research Council of Norway, Innovation Norway. During the presentation, where the research work carried out by Nofima and the University of Tromsø was highly commended, Magnar Pedersen, Director of the Division Fisheries, Industry and Market at Nofima, returned the praise:
“I think there is every reason also to applaud the Ministry, Troms County and Innovation Norway for contributing to the financing of Biotep and the work done in the national plant. The Government, represented by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, is also one of the largest investors in Nofima”, Magnar Pedersen pointed out.
An interested Minister of Fisheries, Per Sandberg, also seemed to have good faith in the northern Norwegian potential world product:
“Too bad one is not permitted to buy shares when one takes on the role of minister”, Per Sandberg said, jokingly.