DIC Enters into Capital and Business Alliance with Biotech Venture Company in Japan —Alliance will reinforce DIC’s algae cultivation business and position it to expand its healthcare and personal care products businesses—

  • R&D
  • News Release
Mar. 25, 2021
#SDGs #ESG #Sustainability #Biotech #algae #healthcare #personalcare

Tokyo, Japan—DIC Corporation announced today that it has entered into a capital and business alliance with Green Science Materials, Inc. (GSM), a green biotech venture company based in Kumamoto, Japan, that has succeeded in commercializing Sacran, a polysaccharide extracted from Suizenji nori (scientific name: Aphanothece sacrum).

GSM is a biotech venture company launched by the Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST) that capitalizes on the research achievements in the extraction of Sacran, a polysaccharide discovered by two JAIST researchers, Dr. Maiko Okajima and Professor Tatsuo Kaneko, becoming the first company in the world to successfully commercialize Sacran. Sacran extracted from Suizenji nori, a freshwater blue-green algae indigenous to Japan, boasts outstanding moisture-retention capacity, anti-inflammatory properties and skin barrier functions, applied for its use in a wide range of skincare products.

GSM is currently working to develop artificial cultivation technologies for Suizenji nori with the aim of facilitating the efficient mass production and global expansion of Sacran. The company is also actively engaged in conservation efforts in and around the Kogane River in Asakura, Fukuoka Prefecture, the only place where this algae grows naturally.

The world’s first successful commercial producer of food-grade Spirulina, the DIC Group began cultivating that algae in the 1970s. Since then, the group has leveraged its capabilities as a pioneer in this field to produce high-quality Spirulina, becoming a leading international manufacturer of Spirulina powder and Spirulina-derived natural blue food colorant Linablue® for use in health foods, food materials and livestock feed.

The alliance with GSM will enable DIC to share mass cultivation and functional ingredients extraction technologies accumulated in the production of Spirulina and with the goal of helping establish technologies for the artificial culture of Suizenji nori. In addition, GSM will work with DIC Group company Sun Chemical Corporation, which oversees group operations in the Americas and Europe, to expand sales of Suizenji nori and Sacran worldwide, as well as to promote the development of new applications for both.

Looking ahead, the DIC Group will continue working to strengthen its blue-green algae cultivation business with the aim of providing products that deliver true value to customers in the areas of both healthcare and personal care.

Suizenji nori is a rare edible blue-green algae that grows naturally only in subterranean freshwater around Mount Aso, on the Japanese island of Kyushu. In the Edo period (1603–1867), the Hosokawa and Akizuki clans, two of the area’s leading samurai families, presented Suizenji nori to the shogunate and sales of this algae are said to have supported the finances of both clans. In the 1870s, Dutch botanist Willem Frederik Reinier Suringar, impressed with the beautiful natural environment in which Suizenji nori grew, gave it the scientific name Aphanothece sacrum, meaning “sacred cyanobacteria.” Sacran is a macromolecular polysaccharide secreted by Suizenji nori to protect its cells in freshwater.

In 2006, Dr. Maiko Okajima and Professor Tatsuo Kaneko of JAIST, having observed that Suizenji nori—native to Japan and a traditional ingredient in high-end Japanese cuisine—secretes a significant amount of a gelatinous substance into its extracellular matrix, succeeded in extracting the substance, a polysaccharide, which they named Sacran.

Moisture-retention capacity
One of Sacran’s most outstanding properties is its moisture-retention capacity. Water retention assays comparing the moisture-retention capacity of Sacran with that of hyaluronic acid—commonly used as a moisturizer in cosmetics—have shown Sacran’s capacity to be six times higher when pure water is used in the assay and 10 times higher when salt water is used.

Anti-inflammatory properties
Tests involving application on inflamed areas of the skin of patients with atopic dermatitis have shown that the film-forming ability of Sacran protects the skin from external stimuli, alleviating symptoms to a greater degree than steroid-based ointments.

Skin barrier functions
Sacran has an extremely high molecular weight with macro-sized molecules. Accordingly, when it is applied to the skin, it forms a high-density nano-thick film. By creating a mesh-like barrier on the skin, a Sacran aggregate adsorbs water from the skin that is transported to the surface due to perspiration, forming a second thin moisture film that protects against external stimuli and allergens. Sacran also boasts high viscosity and is thixotropic, so has a gel-like consistency upon application.

(based on information on GSM’s Japanese-language website (https://www.gsmi.co.jp) with information added by DIC)