US biotechnology ingredients firm Amyris is trialling an alternative to shark-based adjuvants currently used in a number of vaccines, including a number of COVID-19 vaccines.

The California-headquartered company said it was expecting to commercially produce its alternative squalene for adjuvants in the fourth quarter.

Squalene is a natural oil made in the liver of sharks and used as an ingredient in adjuvants to improve the efficacy of vaccines.

Shark-based squalene is used in influenza vaccines as well as in a number of COVID-19 vaccines.

Adjuvants are added to vaccines to boost immune system response and squalene is typically sourced from deep-sea shark livers, a non-sustainable and non-scalable resource.

The company has developed a process to naturally produce sugarcane-derived squalene as an effective alternative to shark-derived squalene.

“We are committed to delivering the world’s needs for a high performance, low cost sustainable squalene without killing a single shark,” said Amyris president and CEO John Melo.

Amyris’ products include ingredients for cosmetics, flavours, and fragrances.