The nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted business operations across sectors. However, the Sami–Sabinsa Group claims that as a result of its well-planned strategies and strong in-house research and development capabilities they are seeing a rising demand for their products in the global market. Dr Muhammed Majeed, Founder & Chairman, Sami–Sabinsa Group shares more details, with Usha Sharma
Tell us about Sami-Sabinsa group’s along with its ongoing activities
The Sami–Sabinsa Group, a pioneer and global leader in health science, aims to provide alternative and complementary natural ingredients for human nutrition, beauty and well-being while practising environmental sustainability and social responsibility. The Group currently has seven manufacturing facilities located across India and US, employs over 1200 employees and recently commenced work on building its eighth facility in Hassan, Karnataka. And its R&D Centre has been recognised by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). It has a team of over 120 research scientists who work tirelessly to discover and develop standardised natural extracts that deliver health benefits to people across the globe.
Tell us about the key ingredients that the company has developed in-house. How do they help address chronic and non-chronic health issues?
Building upon the vast knowledge available from India’s ancient medical system of Ayurveda, the Sami–Sabinsa Group uses modern research techniques to develop products that offer solutions to health problems.
We offer various active ingredients targeting specific therapeutic areas. For example, the prevalence of diabetes is increasing globally at an alarming rate, mainly due to our lifestyle and food habits. India has a large population of pre-diabetics and with premature diabetes, which is affecting people at a much younger age. The Sami–Sabinsa Group offers specific ingredients to help lower blood glucose levels and is also developing products which help in combating metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that, occurring together, increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Those conditions are excess abdominal fat, fasting blood glucose levels above 100mg/dL, blood pressure of 130/80 or above, blood triglyceride levels of 150 mg/dL or above and HDL cholesterol levels of 40 mg/dL for men and 50 for women.
We have scientifically evaluated the ingredients and many are being clinically evaluated for their beneficial effects. The major ingredients in this category include pterostilbene (Silbinol) and water-soluble extracts from Pterocarpus marsupium (pTeroSol); extracts from Emblica Officinalis, aka Indian gooseberry (Saberry) patented and standardised for beta glucogallin; standardized extracts from Gymnema sylvestre (GS4 Plus); and Momordica charantia to name a few. In addition to these, we have products like ForsLean and GarCitrin for healthy weight management. Cancer is a rapidly growing health problem in both developing and developed countries of the world.
Despite the involvement of major pharma organisations in developing new drugs to treat various forms of cancer, mortality rates are steadily increasing. Curcumin is a unique molecule with a multipronged approach that appears to have an inhibiting effect at all stages. The positive aspect is that curcumin is lethal to cancer cells and leaves the normal cells in the body unharmed. The Sami–Sabinsa Group’s Curcumin C3 Complex, an extract of turmeric (Curcuma longa) containing 95 per cent curcuminoids, has been extensively studied as an anti-cancer molecule, as reported in published studies. The effects of C3 Complex in eradicating several forms of cancer cells, as well as preventing metastasis (movement of cancer cells from one tissue to other), are well documented. Recent clinical data suggests that C3 Complex may be used as an adjunct therapy along with chemotherapeutic drugs to increase their efficacy and also reduce the side effects.
Due to the widespread nature of targets in cancer, C3 Complex has been found to play a major role in managing various forms of cancer. Human studies conducted on patients suffering from pancreatic cancer revealed that curcumin can be used as a potent adjuvant along with drugs like Gemcitabine1. Other types of cancer for which C3 Complex has shown promise include multiple myeloma, colorectal and breast cancer, among others. Other ingredients that have anti-cancer activity include ellagic acid, green tea, and many more.
Sami-Sabinsa is recognised in the nutraceutical ingredients segment, what is your role in fighting the coronavirus pandemic?
Maintaining a healthy diet is very important especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. While no foods or dietary supplements can prevent COVID-19 infection, maintaining a healthy diet is an important part of supporting a strong immune system and nutraceuticals play a prominent role in preventive healthcare. We encourage a healthy supplement routine, and taking products like black seed extract, curcumin, resveratrol, zinc, vitamin D, etc., which can help immensely to strengthen your immune system.
The company is involved in a lot of exports, so what are the challenges you faced due to the nationwide lockdown in the country? How has it affected the company’s performance?
Our advance procurement planning on several important botanicals, probiotics and enzymes ensures any material required for further processing is always in stock, so we have at least six months and in many cases up to one year of inventory. We consistently keep three to four months of finished products stock for supplying customers in all warehouses worldwide. Those locations include three warehouses in the USA (Utah and NJ), two each in Germany, Japan, and Australia (Sydney and Melbourne) and one each in Poland, Canada, China, South Africa, Korea, and Dubai. We are monitoring the stock in these warehouses continuously, along with keeping them hygienic and sanitary at all times.
Cargo shipments to our global warehouses are currently proceeding uninterrupted, but should that change for any reason, our warehouses across the world are already well-stocked with our key ingredients, and shipments to our customers are occurring normally. We saw a slowdown and delay during the first few days of the lockdown, but it was immediately relieved in the subsequent days and we were able to get both our air and cargo shipments moving without any further issues.
Will there be any negative impact of the pandemic on the company’s balance sheet? And what are your strategies to ensure smooth production and manpower retention?
Due to the nature of our business which is preventive healthcare, our demand has only increased as consumers abroad are looking for dietary supplements to strengthen their immune system, especially during this time. Hence, there will be a positive impact on our balance sheet, as sales of our ingredients are rising rapidly.
We are continuously assessing the COVID-19 situation and have put in place measures to safeguard the interests and health of both our employees and customers.
While our manufacturing standards already adhere to the US FDA, FSMA and other international regulatory bodies as part of cGMP compliance, we’ve reinforced the necessity of effective handwashing practices and good hygiene to all our corporate, R&D, warehouse and manufacturing facilities’ staff, worldwide.
Installation of additional handwashing facilities and implementation of increased sanitation practices are in place as per WHO standards, and the latest release from US FDA, compounding with United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) grade ingredients. We are well stocked with personal protective equipment and antibacterial products.
Employees are instructed to stay home if they are ill or show symptoms of cold or flu. Regular health check-ups are being conducted on an ongoing basis to identify any infections early on to minimise the potential for virus transmission to others.
The latest updates about COVID-19 are being shared with our employees to keep them well informed.
Virtual communications are being encouraged to cut down on human-to-human contact internally and externally. Social distancing practices are in force.
Tell us more about your blockbuster product and why? How much does it add to the company’s bottom-line performance?
Sami– Sabinsa Group’s Curcumin C3 Complex is the Group’s flagship product and is the number one Curcumin brand evaluated clinically across the globe. This product has been on our top 10 list for several years, matching the ranking this ingredient has in health retail sectors across the globe. It is an extract of turmeric (Curcuma longa) containing 95 per cent curcuminoids and has been extensively studied as an anti-inflammatory molecule. Therefore, the future potential of this blockbuster product will continue to add to the bottom line performance of the company.
Tell us about the patents held by Sami-Sabina in the domestic as well as international markets. How are they helping the company’s growth?
The Group has a sizeable patent portfolio comprising of 254 internationally granted patents and 290 pending patent applications worldwide. As ours is an export-oriented business, these international patents benefit the ingredients we research and manufacture. The number of patents underscore the company’s commitment to R&D and is a reinforcement of Sami–Sabinsa’s vision to continuously develop new and innovative products and ingredients for various health conditions.
How many new ingredients are in the company’s pipeline. Which are the focus areas and by when will they get commercialised?
The Sami–Sabinsa Group is constantly working on developing innovative products. Currently, some of our R&D activities are directed towards lowering metabolic syndrome. We are currently carrying out clinical trials to evaluate our ingredients. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, caused by several factors, including obesity, is a major cause of liver failure in recent years. Apart from nutraceuticals, we also have a strong base in the probiotic segment with our patented, shelf-stable LactoSpore (Bacillus coagulans MTCC 5856), which has been clinically evaluated for irritable bowel syndrome and major depressive disorder. We are also working on supplements in the therapeutic area of inflammatory and neurological diseases. Two weight-loss ingredients are undergoing clinical studies for market introduction.
How many manufacturing and research and development centres do you have and will there be any expansion/upgradation? Which all regulatory approvals do you have for these sites?
Our corporate R&D Centre is located in Bengaluru where concepts for several innovative products are developed and successfully commercialised. We currently have seven manufacturing facilities spread across Bengaluru, Hyderabad and the USA. All our manufacturing facilities have multiple accreditations such as FSSC 22000, FSSAI, USP GMP, and NSF GMP certified, with all these respected third parties confirming both our quality assurance and regulatory compliance with our largest markets. Some of our products are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) affirmed, which means safety data has been provided to meet strict standards for use in food products. In January 2020, we started the work to set up our eighth manufacturing facility in Hassan Karnataka, which is expected to be commissioned by 2021.
How large is your international presence? Do you plan to explore any new geographies?
The Sami–Sabinsa group is a global organisation with a presence in the US (New Jersey & Utah), Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Vietnam. We see immense potential for natural, plant-based products/ingredients in most parts of the world. We have identified Russia and Brazil as our next international markets, which we plan to expand into.