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More than two years after its initial announcement, the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council’s Preservatives Challenge has wrapped, with seven winners named.

First-place winners include Avisco Ltd.(see chart). While the Aug. 6 announcement offers no detail on winning innovations, online information from the biotech startup puts its focus on the antimicrobial properties of Inula viscosa.

Avisco has been studying the “sturdy perennial shrub” since 2002, specifically a potent phenotype that grows wild in Israel where it has adapted to the harsh climate by producing high levels of defensive resin to fend off fungi, bacteria and insects.

The company notes the plant’s long history of traditional medicine use.

Avisco now cultivates Inula viscosa as an organic crop for its Aivorex product, a standardized Inula viscosa oleo resin extract derived from the plant’s leaves.

Germany-based IMD Natural Solutions GmbH, whose R&D program revolves around natural substances with antimicrobial effects, also took first-place honors, sharing in the $175,000 prize pool that was divided between winners.

IMD’s INS Glycolipid mushroom extract (Glyconex) is “up to 80 times more effective than traditional preservatives” and can be added readily to cosmetic formulations, as well as foods and beverages, according to the company’s website.

Testing has shown the ingredient’s preservative efficacy against gram-positive bacteria, yeasts and fungi, including fungus strains that have adapted to sorbates and benzoates, IMD says.

Branchburg, N.J.-basedhydrophilicpolymer specialist Hydromer, one of two second-place award recipients in the GC3 challenge.

Central to its green chemistry division, Hydromer’s Carvacrol Technology utilizes monoterpenoid, a naturally derived active compound found in the essential oil of oregano, thyme, pepperwort and wild bergamot with strong antibacterial and antifungal properties, according to the company’s website.

Canadian startup Chinova Bioworks, Inc., which took third place, has built its business around mushroom chitosan, a dietary fiber extracted from white button, oyster and other common mushroom varieties.

Chinova says its mushroom chitosan-based preservative provides broad-spectrum coverage and is effective at low concentrations, among other benefits that make it a promising solution to the “preservative paradox," i.e., "the fact that preservatives are essential for reducing food and beverage waste, but are often very unhealthy for the consumer.”

GC3 Preservative Challenge Winners
1st Place Award Recipients
  • Avisco Ltd.
  • IMD Natural Solutions GmbH
  • Irena Jevtov Research & Innovation
  • United States Department of Agriculture/People Against Dirty/Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry/University of Victoria/Safer Made
2nd Place Award Recipients
  • Hydromer, Inc.
  • Russian Academy of Sciences
3rd Place Award Recipient
  • Chinova Bioworks, Inc.


What Now?

Monica Becker, GC3’s director of collaborative innovation, notes, “The GC3 created a unique, pre-competitive platform for experts from the entire value chain to work together to address a common challenge – the need for new preservative technologies.”

GC3 observes that regulations and shifting consumer preferences have depleted the palette of “acceptable” preservative options for formulators, creating urgent need for green chemistry innovations.

The competition’s aim was to surface preservative concepts with improved environmental and/or human health profiles compared with industry’s existing set of dwindling options. (Also see "Preservative Innovation Competition Will Launch Imminently, GC3 Says" - Rose Sheet, 12 Apr, 2017.)

GC3 describes itself as a multi-stakeholder collaborative aimed at a “greener” future, with its base in the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Specifically, GC3 sought broad-spectrum or single-action chemical agents on gram-positive bacteria, gram-negative bacteria, yeast and/or mold. It was also open to innovative preservative boosters.

All seven winners, selected from 48 submissions to the competition overall, had their innovations formulated into three basic products for safety and efficacy testing purposes.

Syracuse Research Corporation and Cosmetech headed up evaluations, according to GC3’s release.

Johnson & Johnson,Unilever PLC,Procter & Gamble Co. and Colgate-Palmolive Co. were among GC3 members that sponsored the challenge and helped judge entries against performance and safety criteria. (Also see "GC3 Preservatives Competition Deadline Nears With 15 Applicants So Far" - Rose Sheet, 10 Aug, 2017.)

Suppliers including Dow Chemical Control, Lonza and Symrise had parts in funding and designing the competition but did not have judging roles due to competitive interests.

“J&J was delighted to sponsor this unprecedented initiative that enabled companies to pool their knowledge and experience to identify promising new technologies for preservation and accelerate their application in the market.” – Homer Swei, director of product stewardship at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

While winners did go home with modest prizes, the big draw was the potential to partner with a leading supplier or packaged consumer goods company for larger development opportunities.

There has been skepticism among some industry experts that the GC3 preservatives challenge would yield innovations with the potential for wide commercial development due to regulatory obstacles - particularly in the EU - and other complicating factors. (Also see "Personal-Care Industry Leaders Issue Call For Green Chemistry Solutions" - Rose Sheet, 22 Dec, 2017.)

But the need for new preservative systems with consumer products applicability is undeniable. IMD’s natural solutions platform, for one, already has proven compelling from a commercial standpoint outside of the GC3 challenge.

Specialty chemicals firm Lanxess acquired the company in late 2017, citing the move as “an important step towards making Lanxess fit for the future in the growing market for natural active ingredients.”

Homer Swei, director of product stewardship at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., speaks to J&J’s stake in the GC3 project. “J&J was delighted to sponsor this unprecedented initiative that enabled companies to pool their knowledge and experience to identify promising new technologies for preservation and accelerate their application in the market,” he says.

Kaj Johnson, senior director of product development at People Against Dirty– the parent of “clean” home-care brands Method and Ecover– is similarly optimistic about future prospects.

“We are constantly scouting for new, safer ingredients for our products, and preservatives are an important focus. By collaborating with our peers in this competition, we learned about and evaluated the efficacy of new solutions that we had not found on our own, and now we may be able to help innovators bring those solutions to market and scale for the benefit of all,” Johnson says.

People Against Dirty also shared a first-place prize in the competition for an innovation listed as a collaboration between it and the US Department of Agriculture, Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry, University of Victoria and green innovation-focused venture capital fund Safer Made.

According to Becker, winners and GC3 sponsors are exploring opportunities for commercializing and scaling the spotlighted preservative innovations.

She notes that further GC3 initiatives may be in the works.

“Propelled by the success of the Preservatives Challenge to accelerate green chemistry innovation and market activity, we look forward to establishing additional collaborative innovation projects that target other priority technology areas,” Becker says.

Last year, GC3 members cited non-sensitizing fragrance raw materials and naturally derived hair-conditioning agents among leading green chemistry needs.

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