Nutrasource teams up with DNA4 Technologies to offer botanical and herbal ID platform

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / KrulUA
© Getty Images / KrulUA

Related tags Botany Herbal

Canada-based Nutrasource Pharmaceutical and Nutraceutical Services has formed a strategic alliance with Baltimore-based DNA4 Technologies in order to offer cutting-edge species identification technology for botanical and herbal products.

The agreement allows for an integrated approach to species ID using the DNA based metagenomics approach, or standard DNA barcoding when appropriate, in addition to microscopy as well as standard lab bench chemistry. Offering a set of complementary diagnostic assays allows for the correct fit for a given product to add to the level of certainty and reliability, said the company.  

“We’re past the argument of one technology versus another,” ​William Rowe, President and CEO of Nutrasource​, told NutraIngredients-USA.

Nutrasource has spent two years extensively reviewing the herbal and botanical testing space, said Rowe, and determined that the metagenomic approach and computational power associated with DNA4’s process is the ideal solution for its customers.


DNA-based technology dominated trade media headlines in 2015 and early 2016 after NY AG Eric Schneiderman used it to build cases against a number of retailers of herbal supplements.

Nutrasource’s Dr Anna DeBoer, who was integral to the vetting process, explained that there are a few different DNA platforms commercially available, with many companies focusing on the use of a few barcodes, which are limited to two to three unique identifiers. “That seems to be working, but questions continue to arise about the validity of the technology (since methods are not open access), and its ability to differentiate between closely related species in some cases,”​ said Dr DeBoer. “We were hesitant to jump on the bandwagon of a few barcodes. DNA4 can capture the sequence of an entire chloroplast genome.”

“DNA4’s metagenomic approach and subsequent statistical analysis has the ability to provide greater certainty of results, i.e. to discern the real species present from unsubstantial levels of suspected contaminants,” ​she added.

Dr David Erickson, ‎Founder and CEO of ‎DNA4 Technologies LLC​, said: “The metagenomics approach contrasts with species-specific assays in that it can capture and categorize what species are in a sample, even when very different or multiple species are present.  And because we can use entire genomes as the references for identification, we can readily distinguish among closely related species. We have worked hard to emphasize transparency and reproducibility in our testing so that our results can be replicated and cross-validated.”

Rowe added that this isn’t a panacea for all herbal products but the metagenomic approach from DNA4 has far more reliability when aligned with the appropriate sample matrices.

Certification program

Nutrasource has rolled out the service to its current customers with a view toward blending this into a certification program at a point in the future. The company’s certification roots are in the successful IFOS​ program for fish oil and omega-3 products, which is now in its 13th year.

“We’ve done a lot in herbals and botanicals but we haven’t aggressively positioned that part of the business until now,”​ said Rowe.

The proposed certification program is planned to launch at Expo West in Anaheim in March, 2018, added Rowe. 

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