Speciality chemical company Evonik has launched a plant-based alternative to shark liver oil-derived squalene for vaccines and other pharmaceutical applications.

Squalene is typically sourced from deep-sea shark livers, a non-sustainable and non-scalable resource. It is used as an ingredient in adjuvants, which are added to vaccines – including some for influenza and COVID-19 - to boost immune system response.

Evonik said on 6 December that its PhytoSquene ingredient was the first known amaranth oil-derived squalene on the market for use in adjuvants in parenteral dosage (non-oral) forms.

“It is alarming that biodiversity across our planet is declining at a rapid rate. That’s why we are excited about empowering our customers to create products that preserve biodiversity and, at the same time, deliver high-quality treatments to patients,” Thomas Riermeier, head of Evonik’s Health Care business line, said.

PhytoSquene is made from the oil of amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus) which is an herbaceous plant cultivated in many parts of the world.

Compliant with European Pharmacopoeia (Ph Eur) specifications, the use of PhytoSquene involved no risk of pathogenic transmission, Evonik said.

PhytoSquene also provided an alternative for patients who could not use animal-derived products for cultural or religious reasons, the company said.

Non-GMP (good manufacturing practice – a system for ensuring products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards) samples of PhytoSquene were now available, Evonik said, with GMP quality samples to follow next year.