By Margaret Magner Special to The Guadian
Dr. Jayant Deshpande, president of OmniActive Health Technologies (Canada) Limited, in the company’s Charlottetown facility, the centre for North American R&D. UPEI graduates are playing a significant role as researchers there. Submitted photo
To say Dr. Jayant Deshpande sees things clearly would be an understatement.
Deshpande is president of OmniActive Health Technologies (Canada) Limited, creator of the award-winning Lutemax vision health products which combine high-quality, non-GMO lutein extracted from marigold flowers esters, enhanced levels of zeaxanthin isomers, and the revolutionary OmniBead ™ delivery system.
Benefits extend beyond improved vision to include skin, blood, brain and other human tissues. Unlike competitors that typically spend two-to-three per cent of revenue on research and development, OmniActive invests eight per cent.
“Others sell hope and hype. We sell science,” Deshpande says proudly.
Nutritional Outlook magazine agrees; it named OmniActive as the “Best of 2013” in Industry Leader category awards.
Though OmniActive’s manufacturing of dietary supplements and functional foods is done in India, the R&D momentum is solidly in North America where 90 per cent of the company’s business occurs.
“We relish the opportunity to work closely with our customers here and understand their needs,” says Deshpande, who is also chief technology officer for OmniActive Health Technologies Ltd. in India and has personally developed 18 patents.
Although first drawn to P.E.I. for business, Deshpande appreciates the people and distinctive nature of the Island and recently relocated his family here.
“They are enjoying the local culture and uncrowded spaces. And appreciate the personal attention at school where every teacher already knows our son,” says Deshpande.
“So much is new to them. We distributed candy to hundreds of kids at our house on Halloween. Plus they had the thrill of their first Canadian snowfall. ”
OmniActive came to P.E.I. for its world-class research infrastructure, competitive business costs, access to decision makers, and collaborative bioscience cluster.
“Our sales, marketing and technology centre is in New Jersey. Chicago also lobbied hard to be our North American R&D hub. In the end, we chose P.E.I. With the National Research Council, University of Prince Edward Island and the Atlantic Veterinary College as partners, our research is accelerating and our capital investment is significantly less.”
In 2013, OmniActive’s research advances garnered $446,000 in NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program funding and $343,000 in ACOA support. A short time ago, the P.E.I. BioCommons Research Park was a snow-covered field, but now houses OmniActive’s thriving research facility.
The company is surrounded by a rapidly expanding support network, including the NRC, UPEI, Innovation PEI, ACOA, and the P.E.I. BioAlliance. And the company is creating new jobs in the province.
Dr. Khadija Ghanam completed her post-doctoral research at the NRC and now manages research activities at the OmniActive facility, fostering the discovery and commercialization of products promoting vision, weight, joint, and brain health.
“People don’t want chemicals anymore,” she says, “They’re seeking natural products with the same effect as drugs. If I can help make that happen, it’s exciting.”
And happening it is. Omkar Sohoni, senior marketing executive, just arrived from India to explore animal health-care opportunities in the North American market.
“OmniActive understands how our products work for humans. Now we’re investigating animal health benefits, as well,” he says.
A major advantage is OmniActive’s proximity to AVC with its emphasis on nutritional research. Such innovation is part of the transformation of this company which originated as Kancor Ingredients, a world leader in natural botanicals, spice extracts, and essential oils for food and beverage applications.
Notable successes include Omnibead™ and UltraSOL™ — unique molecular and vegetarian delivery systems which achieve high payloads of bioactives, assisting in nutrient absorption and distribution.
Highly bioactive CurcuWin perfects turmeric extract to 20 per cent total curcuminoids, a potent antidote for joint and inflammatory pain. OmniActive’s Capsimax products — producing the thermogenic power of red hot peppers without oral and gastric irritation — support healthy weight management, recognized by international scientific excellence awards.
Selling its dietary supplementation, nutritional fortification, functional food, and flavor enhancement ingredients to companies such as GNC and Jamieson, OmniActive currently provides ingredients for some 70 products featured in the North American market.
The future is equally promising.
“We have the potential to expand four-fold within the next 10 years,” says Deshpande, “with P.E.I. the hub for global distribution of animal products. If raw materials can be sourced here, they can be manufactured here, as well.”
With forays into new products for body building, sports endurance, and male sexual health on the horizon, OmniActive will continue to share its visionary spirit with Prince Edward Island.
Margaret Magner, Ph.D., is a freelance journalist in Charlottetown (www.magnerink.com). This is one in a series of articles on P.E.I.’s bioscience sector.