ASK THE LAB EXPERT: Facilitating the Discovery of Nutraceuticals and Small Molecules

Using computers and technology to analyze data and better understand natural systems can help design highly specific and effective nutraceuticals.

by | May 30, 2024

Vitold Glinski discusses how the nutraceutical market has evolved and how Planta Analytica is helping researchers adapt

Expert Bio:

Vitold Glinski, the CEO of Planta Analytica, Inc., is no stranger to the small molecule industry. He spent his free time in his father’s laboratory from the age of twelve: learning the trade, attending conferences, and familiarizing himself with natural product R&D.

Aspiring to continue the family business, he went to the University of Connecticut, where he studied chemical engineering. He then returned to Planta Analytica, where he focused on working in the laboratory, applying new skills to expand services, thereby supporting large-scale operations.

In 2022, Vitold hung up his lab coat and began focusing on honing his team’s unique skills, while also managing the business. He strives for Planta Analytica, Inc. to be an alternative to the massive conglomerates, by offering unique services with a dedicated staff, thereby fostering strong relationships and expertise.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the work you do for Planta Analytica and what brought you to the field of nutraceuticals and small molecule discovery?

A: When I was about 10 years old, my father, Dr. Jan Glinski, gave up his career in the pharmaceutical industry, seeing it was abandoning natural products for new trends in drug discovery. He went on to establish Planta Analytica, which was created as a platform to facilitate the development of novel active molecules, with a strong focus on naturally derived products. From then on, I spent my time outside of school learning and working at Planta Analytica.

After college, I spent around six years in various functions, ranging from analytics to large-scale purification. Eventually, I moved into a product manager role, shadowing my father all along and learning the business side of things. I took over the reins in 2020.

Since taking over, I’ve focused our efforts on two pressing areas. Firstly, we’ve built up our service platform to support companies developing novel natural agrochemical products. The need for safe and healthy foods that can be grown efficiently is a global imperative. The other area of focus is helping companies develop traditional medicine into well-tested and validated products that can improve people’s quality of life.

Q: How has the market around nutraceuticals grown and evolved in the last few years?

A: In the last five years, we’ve seen a noticeable shift in the thinking around nutraceuticals and, more broadly, natural products. Earlier, many industry leaders competed with Nature and artificially synthesized small molecules with the help of advanced technology. However, many are going back to the natural ways largely because artificial synthesis lacks the synergistic intermolecular benefits inherent in the natural matrix. It’s humbling to realize the extent to which plants have a knack for making highly effective biologically active compounds, often without the side effects like those of their novel, synthetic counterparts.

Using computers and technology to analyze data and better understand natural systems can help design highly specific and effective nutraceuticals. We are at an exciting intersection, where people are leveraging technology to better understand what’s natural and naturally occurring. These advances would, however, require a host of new quality control (QC), quality assurance (QA), and regulatory requirements.

Q: What are some of the concerns surrounding the formulation, regulation, and bringing to market of nutraceutical products?

A: In general, brands try to achieve formulations that are closest to the natural alternatives. Take Stevia as an example. When designing the formula, you want to keep the natural branding at every step. This includes what you mix it with, how you’re getting your flavor profile, and how you’re running the process. If you use an enrichment method that results in too much stevioside in the formula, it may not generate the flavor profile that you want. However, removing the stevioside from the formula can cause you to lose the natural branding, depending on how the stevioside is removed—i.e., combining non-sequential fractions. Changing to an enrichment method where the stevioside is eluted at the beginning or at the end of the glycoside elution band allows for its removal while still keeping a natural formulation in the eyes of regulators.

For better or worse, regulations on nutraceuticals are increasing and getting stricter. It’s helping legitimize the products, but at the same time it’s driving up costs through multiple stages of certification. First, material validation requires a round of testing to ensure authenticity of the plant and ensure the product produced meets a minimum standard for quantity of active components. Then, any claims on what the material can do have to be substantiated by another level of regulation. If you intend to make medical claims, you’ll be required to have clinical trials to support them. Cinnamon extracts, for example, can be used in insulin modulation, and they have other antioxidant properties. But, to make those claims, you need to profile the product, and then support the claim with clinical data. Fortunately, small clinical trials for natural products aren’t very expensive—quarter million dollars as opposed to hundreds of millions. Mostly it’s testing to show that they’re not dangerous, more so than anything else.

Impurities testing and qualification is another dimension in the study of natural products. The goal here is to analyze the effect of impurities and prevent biomagnification in the consumers. Some of the impurities you find in pharmaceuticals or in natural products can be quite hazardous. For example, honey that’s collected from certain regions has a high propensity for pyrrolizidine alkaloids, which are hepatotoxic compounds. Therefore, it is important to analyze and control this to ensure that honey is not causing a buildup of these products in people. By assessing and qualifying these impurities they can be accounted for and hopefully mitigated. A second example is the regulation of pesticides. For instance, poor practices can lead to concentration of organic pesticides in food products that is much higher than what’s permitted and safe. When such products are not screened per the standards, these pesticides can accumulate in human systems and lead to unforeseen effects.

Q: How and at what stage does Planta Analytica typically help its clientele?

A: We typically work on projects that are in the very early stages. Some of our clients are companies that have identified a target in a biological system and may have studies supporting the efficacy of a bioactive molecule in a nutraceutical or functional food. They may need help elucidating the structure of the target, which entails getting through several waves of purification and analysis.

The next step would be method development. At this stage, we develop QC and QA methods for monitoring and qualifying products and scaling-up methods to ensure manufacturing a nutraceutical or natural product is commercially viable. Often, when dealing with pharmaceuticals, we focus on synthetic production, but for natural products and nutraceuticals, we have to apply scientific strategies to maintain their natural activity and other crucial characteristics.

Planta Analytica also tackles testing required for regulatory purposes. Many, but not all of these foods, flavors, and nutraceuticals need to go through GMP laboratories. As a non-GMP company, we accept cases and products that need QA and QC testing to be commercialized and suitable for the market, and can offer a much more cost effective solution.

We also produce the primary reference materials for analysis and certification of various products. We’re probably one of the larger manufacturers of novel standards and probably one of the few US companies remaining in this space.

Q: How do you see the nutraceutical space changing in the future?

A: Companies may proactively address regulatory standards in the future. Rather than trying to adapt to changing regulations that are created by groups that don’t understand the intricacies of the products, companies are getting involved with regulators and helping them to design the methods and specifications accordingly, saving time and money while producing more meaningful certifications.

Additionally, I anticipate more pharmaceutical companies will look to natural products to generate new and superior therapeutics.

But I think the biggest shift will be in the technologies being used, especially with innovations around artificial intelligence. AI opens so many avenues not just to explore the applications of novel drugs or those in the pipeline, but also to utilize plants and their systems in undiscovered ways.

Are you looking for small molecule or nutraceutical testing?

Nutraceutical and small molecule discovery involves numerous tests to elucidate target structure and meet regulatory standards. Whether you are only at the early stage of target identification or a later portion of method development or regulatory testing, Planta Analytica can provide the services and expertise you need to facilitate bring your nutraceutical to market. View their services and submit a request through


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