In 2020, SCNM will expand the Ric Scalzo Institute for Botanical Research, a state-of-the-art molecular biology/phytochemistry laboratory. The Institute will work in collaboration with the natural products industry and other academic institutions to develop new products and improve existing botanical therapeutics through scientific exploration grounded in clinical herbalism’s rich tradition. In addition, the Ric Scalzo Institute for Botanical Research will house multiple laboratory facilities including a biosafety level 2 molecular and cellular biology laboratory with cell/virus culture capabilities, a compound isolation laboratory, and a compound identification and quantification facility.
The Institute’s mission is to understand how traditional plant medicines operate on a cellular level in order to create novel botanical solutions that support people, planet, and plants.
Inside The Lab
Botanical formulations present challenges for rigorous scientific testing to understand their actual therapeutic efficacy.
To assess a botanical’s medicinal potential, two factors need to be understood:
- The chemical composition, stability, and consistency across manufacturing batches
- The botanical’s mechanism of action within a cell and the body.
- The current state of knowledge of the botanical is evaluated related to anecdotal/historical therapeutic activity
- Relevant scientific literature published
- Accessibility of in vitro bioassay systems available
Once assessed, valid plant material is obtained and tested for basic biological activity. This in vitro system will be optimized and modified to develop a consistent and reliable method to evaluate and/or validate the biological activity of a specific botanical. From this, optimal extraction methods can be developed, pilot clinical trials performed, and further deciphering of the specific mechanism of action of the botanical completed.
In addition, through bioassay-guided fractionation and purification, the constituent profile of a botanical can be used to standardize botanical therapies and the active therapeutic compound(s) isolated and identified.
By combining this in-depth analysis of botanicals, novel synergistic botanical blends can be designed and traditional formulas can be optimized to target different aspects of a disease. Thus, the therapeutic claims can be validated, as well as herbal product standardization and quality control can be performed to develop evidence-based, standardized natural products.