Fucoidans are sulphated polysaccharides found in macroalgal species, which have been studied over the past 20 years for their role as selectin-inhibitors, antivirals, growth factor inhibitors and receptor blockers.
They have been consumed for many hundreds of years in Asian countries such as Japan, China and Korea, in the form of whole seaweed.
Although the market is not yet large enough to be tracked, fucoidans have recently started to be used in nutraceutical products in Australia and the US - for instance in Mannatech's Advanced Ambrotose supplement for immune health.
Marinova business development manager Nick Falk told NutraIngredients-USA.com that some Chinese companies have begun extracting fucoidan from seaweeds in recent years using a solvent-based process. But Marinova's process is water-based, meaning that the molecular make-up remains unchanged and its fucoidans are 'nature identical'.
The new facility in Tasmania, on which Aus$10m (US$7.3m) has been spent to date, is claimed to be the world's first dedicated solely to fucoidan extraction and fractionation.
Capacity will be in the region of 100kg of extracted fucoidan per month.
The company has partnered with Novost (a chemical company in which it currently has a major shareholding and which it plans to incorporate as a fully-owned subsidiary) on the fractionation of the fucoidan molecules.
This means that it can deliver different fractions for specific nutritional, nutraceutical and cosmetic applications.
In addition to immune support, it is envisaged that fucoidans could be used in supplements aimed at preventing or alleviating the symptoms of other health indications, including metabolic syndrome, deep vein thrombosis, irritable bowel syndrome and osteoarthrisis.
Until now Mannatech's Ambrotose product contained brown seaweed (Undaria Pinnatifida) supplied by Marinova out of its existing macroagal harvesting, blending and milling facilities.
The two companies signed a multi-year agreement in September 2004.
But as the supplier enters a new era of streamlined service from harvesting right through to fractionation, Mannatech becomes one of the first supplement companies using the extracted fucoidans in the US market.
Falk said that Marinova is seeking more nutraceutical partners in the US, Australia and Europe.
It is envisaged that nutraceutical sales will help fund pharmaceutical developments. Marinova has already investigated the activity of specific fractions as vital attachment inhibitors in herpes and HIV.
It is also partnering with a US medical device company to develop an anti-inflammatory to act as a seal around internal wounds.