Maclab is a successful biotechnology company that extracts bioactives from New Zealand green-lipped mussels (Perna canaliculus) for the biopharmaceutical industry. The company has a strong commitment to science research.
The company, started in the 1970s, was a pioneer in the market for New Zealand native green-lipped mussel powder and oil as anti-inflammatory products.
Maclab processes mussels into a powder and then a second company, Pharmalink Extracts Limited, extracts the oil from this powder. Maclab’s processing techniques maximise the bioactive properties that are present in the mussel powder that is produced. Maclab has patented a number of these processes.
The company markets its products throughout the world under various brand names, including Lyprinol®.
What is biotechnology?
‘Biotechnology’ is a very broad term that generally refers to the use or manipulation of biological processes, organisms or systems for a particular purpose. Learn more about ancient and modern biotechnologies.
Anti-inflammatory properties of green-lipped mussels
New Zealand green-lipped mussels are a multi-million dollar food and biopharmaceutical export industry. The mussels have been commercially farmed in New Zealand since the 1960s.
Research over 3 decades has shown that green-lipped mussel extracts have a natural anti-inflammatory activity that helps with joint mobility. There is also a growing body of evidence that the extract may help improve conditions that involve inflammation, such as arthritis, asthma, psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease (including Crohn's disease).
The anti-inflammatory activity is understood to result from a rare combination of several naturally occurring bioactives in the oil extracted from the mussels. The bioactives work together to stop the formation of inflammatory compounds in the human body, helping to reduce inflammation and the associated pain.
In 2007, Maclab used scientific research to patent a process that enabled them to test and screen green-lipped mussels prior to harvesting to identify those mussels that have high levels of the desired bioactives. Different bays where mussel farms are located are in peak condition at different times, so Maclab tests mussels at an independent lab to help decide when best to harvest.
Stabilising mussel bioactive properties during processing
The bioactive properties of the green-lipped mussel are important to the efficacy of the end product. A challenge for Maclab was how to maintain the bioactive properties throughout the extraction processes.
Many processors use steam to open the mussels to extract the meat. This application of heat severely reduces the bioactive properties of the mussel. Maclab researchers developed and patented a stabilisation process that protects the bioactive anti-inflammatory activity from degradation. This involves high-pressure processing (HPP) technology to extract the mussel meat from the shell without using heat.
HPP is a technique used in the food industry for non-thermal pasteurisation. The process ensures the product remains fresher and keeps the same nutrient profile that was present prior to the pasteurisation process.
Another important scientific development that Maclab patented was the CO2 extraction technology, which enables the bioactives to be extracted from the powder without any chemical solvent residue, unlike cheaper solvent extraction methods.
Maclab has also developed a series of processes that remove the proteins that trigger seafood allergies to ensure that the end product is a purer, non-allergenic extract.
The scientific research and application of these findings has provided Maclab with a key point of difference in the marketplace. The company supplies a stable, highly concentrated oil extract with proven efficacy.
The Science Learning Hub thanks Showdown Productions for its assistance in the writing of this story.
The video clip is courtesy of Rural Delivery a television programme that looks at excellence and innovation within the primary industries in New Zealand.
For other biotechnology and aquaculture stories in the primary industries, go to the Rural Delivery television series website. Stories include the extraction of the anti-microbial product totarol from tōtara logs and the farming of pāua at OceaNZ Blue.