The clinical and botanical supplies unit is a state-of-the-art medicinal plant processing facility designed to produce pharmaceutical grade herbal products, bridging the gap between laboratory research and clinical trials. The facility is HACCP-accredited (a food safety management system that enables food processing and catering industries to introduce and maintain a cost effective, on-going and safety programme). It is equipped to develop and demonstrate technologies that are beyond laboratory scale, up to a 100 litre scale. This facility allows the CSIR to take biotechnology, agro-processing and chemistry-based project leads from proof of concept to a tangible commercial product through stringent process development and piloting.
This facility is specifically aimed at the development and supply of small quantities of pharmaceutical raw material based on indigenous plants. The main purpose of this facility is to allow the early clinical validation of patented botanicals, prior to licensing to multinational pharmaceutical companies.
Key infrastructure and equipment
Infrastructure is available to support bioprospecting, agroprocessing and algae technology development, which are aimed to support agreed national priorities.
The facility has a 150 litre reactor (extraction vessel), herb dryer, drum drier, automated vibratory washing machine, automated slicer (1 – 45 mm thickness), industrial mincer, high performance liquid chromatographer instrumentation, bench top capsule-making machine, spray drier (8 -15 litre per hour), and hydraulic press (50 litre capacity, 400 Bar maximum pressure).
Chemistry pilot plant:
The chemistry pilot plant houses various organic and inorganic reactors, centrifuges, condensers/evaporators (scrubber/vacuum system) 40 litre solvent recovery, a wiped film evaporator, short path distillation equipment, six-inch fractionating column, continuous counter current extraction equipment and many more. The facilities can accommodate research and production from as little as a 10 litre scale, up to a pilot scale of about 400 litre.
Food and feed processing plant:
The facility is also equipped with food and feed pilot production equipment that can be used to undertake research for the food, beverage, fishing and agro-processing industries. This is a fully-equipped food and feed processing plant, with both a twin screw extruder and a single screw extruder suitable for production of specialised foods and feeds. Availability of such equipment allows for the manufacturing of aqua feeds in a multitude of shapes, sizes, densities and textures, which can be both floating and sinking feeds. It also has a small fish tank system for dedicated studies on live fish that is used to assist in developing novel aqua feeds for specific species.
The facility also has access to supporting laboratories for specific analytical and microbiological studies. It is also used to provide training for food science and engineering students, as well as training local communities in agro-processing and food processing methods.
Algal research laboratory:
The facility also boasts a fully equipped algal research laboratory with flow cytometer; fluorescent spectrophotometers; ultraviolet-visible spectrophotometer; gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy; liquid chromatography and liquid chromatography mass spectrometry (a method that combines the features of gas-liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to identify different substances within a test sample); liquid extraction equipment and many more.
Skills and competences
The team that works in this facility is made up of bioprocess engineers, process chemists, natural product chemists, as well as food and chemical engineers. The group has extensive expertise in the areas of process chemistry, protein and plant extractions, food and feed engineering; and algal biotechnology with their respective skills ranging from process and product development and optimisation, process trouble-shooting, process flow sheeting, process design, techno-economic (feasibility) assessments, technology packaging, technology transfer and implementation.
The team’s competitive advantage lies in its strong product and development skills, as well as its experience of industry needs and challenges. The group boasts a combined process and product development knowledge gained over 50 years with a long track record of successful project execution and completion.
Mr Dheepak Maharajh