Triterpenes are available from birch bark in significant amounts, and because of this many of these compounds may be economically viable in a number of applications. Reliable supplies of pure triterpenoids and their synthetic derivatives are now available.

NaturNorth Technologies, LLC (NaturNorth) produces a number of lupane triterpenes and related compounds that are available as intermediates or active ingredients for drug development and production. Collaborations are expected to lead to therapeutic breakthroughs in the approach to treating viral diseases, antibiotic resistant bacterial infections, melanoma and other forms of cancer.

After several years of developing an efficient ‘green’ isolation process from the wood products’ wastestream, NaturNorth is now offering a reliable supply of pure triterpenoids and their synthetic derivatives. The lupane triterpenoids that NaturNorth produces are noteworthy, not only in their abundance, high purity and range of bioactivity (antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anticancer and anti-inflammatory), but also in their remarkably low toxicity.

NaturNorth is a source of commercial quantities of other related lupane triterpenes, including betulinic acid, betulinic aldehyde and lupeol. Efforts are also underway to identify and develop the unique biological properties of hydroxyl fatty acids (suberinic acids) and other components of birch bark.

There is an extensive history of the use of birch bark and birch bark extractives (typically water extractives) by native people. In recent years, a burgeoning collection of technical articles, patent publications and reports has grown on the broad range of pharmaceutical uses of these compounds. It is timely that a commercial source of these materials has now been developed by NaturNorth.

Industry experience

NaturNorth is the result of a partnership between Potlatch Corporation, the University of Minnesota Duluth and Synertec (a subsidiary of Allete, Inc). The management and technical teams have extensive experience in sourcing and processing high volumes of natural materials for subsequent extraction and purification. They also have wide-ranging development and engineering experience in the chemical, pharmaceuticals and natural products industries.

The scientific team brings experience in organic synthesis and medicinal chemistry from both an academic and industrial perspective to the development of a chemical library (~1000 derivatives) that reflects a diversity of possible structural variations. The evaluation of potential APIs is performed with the aid of experienced medical, microbiological and biochemical professionals at national contract research laboratories.

NaturNorth has an extensive patent portfolio that supports the extraction, purification, chemical manipulation and applications of their platform chemicals and derivatives. The company’s corporate headquarters is based in Duluth, Minnesota, USA, and it has constructed production facilities in Two Harbors, Minnesota, to pelletise large volumes of bark.

NaturNorth has developed a large network of contract manufacturing organisations, which enables the company to offer large volumes of both platform chemicals and derivatives. The company is actively seeking opportunities for strategic partnerships using the proven experience of its process chemistry to provide high-purity triterpenoids, as well as expertise in synthesis and medicinal chemistry to maximise value for pharmaceutical applications.