Luo Han Guo fruit, sweetener
Senomyx seeks partners to work on siratose, a zero-calorie, high-intensity sweetener from luo han guo.

SAN DIEGO — A new natural, zero-calorie, high-intensity sweetener extracted from luo han guo has entered the development phase, according to Senomyx, Inc. The San Diego-based company is seeking partners to further develop the sweetener and hopes to submit a Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) notification by the end of 2019.

Luo han guo is the fruit of the Siraitia grosvenorii plant. The new Senomyx sweetener, called siratose, comprises less than 1% of luo han guo and could not have been discovered using traditional human taste testing, said John Poyhonen, president and chief executive officer of Senomyx, which uses proprietary taste science technologies to discover, develop and commercialize novel flavor ingredients and natural, zero-calorie sweeteners.

John Poyhonen, Senomyx
John Poyhonen, president and c.e.o. of Senomyx

“(Siratose) is not the brand name, but the name you would see on an ingredient list within the nutrition facts information panel on a packaged food or beverage product,” Mr. Poyhonen said. “The discovery of this minor component was facilitated by our proprietary taste science technologies.”

In sensory evaluations, siratose showed greater potency and a better taste profile than Rebaudioside A, which is extracted from the stevia plant, he said. Siratose is stable in low pH products like carbonated beverages and also soluble, he said, adding siratose has shown greater potency and overall taste quality to existing sweeteners based on luo han guo.

Starting in 2010, Senomyx screened more than 3 million samples of natural sweeteners and identified nearly 300 sweeteners form 35 distinct families found in nature, Mr. Poyhonen said. After analyzing taste and physical properties, the company advanced the lead natural sweetener, siratose, into the development phase.

“During the past year, we developed a comprehensive intellectual property strategy, initiated preliminary safety studies and gained confidence on our ability to partner to develop a cost-effective fermentation scale-up process,” he said. “Working with fermentation process experts, our goal is to achieve a proof of concept of the fermentation strain development by the first half of 2018. Assuming that we are able to achieve this goal, the next step is to optimize the strain development process and submit our GRAS notification by the end of 2019, keeping in mind the feasibility and timeline of these development activities is inherently uncertain.”

He said Senomyx is pursuing new non-exclusive collaborative relationships for the company’s natural sweet taste program, which will seek to maximize the sweetener’s commercial potential and provide collaborators with access to siratose.

“Several potential partners have already tasted siratose, and the feedback has been very positive,” Mr. Poyhonen said. “We have built a pipeline of excellent collaboration candidates, and we remain confident in our ability to begin adding collaborators to our syndicate during 2017.”