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|Traded as||NASDAQ: SNMX|
|Founder||Lubert Stryer, Paul Grayson|
|Headquarters||San Diego, California, USA|
Senomyx is an American biotechnology company working toward developing additives to amplify certain flavors and smells in foods. The company claims to have essentially "reverse engineered" the receptors in humans that react for taste and aroma, and that they are capitalizing on these discoveries to produce chemicals that will make food taste better. Senomyx develops patented flavor enhancers by using "proprietary taste receptor-based assay systems." These receptors have been previously expressed in HEK293 cells.
Senomyx was founded by prominent biochemist Lubert Stryer in 1999. In May 2001, Stryer returned to his professorship at Stanford University and resigned from Senomyx, but continues to be the Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board.
Senomyx develops patented flavor enhancers by using "proprietary taste receptor-based assay systems." These receptors have been previously expressed in HEK293 cells. HEK stands for human embryonic kidney cells. These cells are derived from cells that originally came from a healthy, electively aborted human fetus in the early 1970s. The receptors in the assay are used to identify flavours; they are not used as flavours themselves. No human taste receptors are used as ingredients in any flavourings. Using information from the human genome sequence, Senomyx has identified hundreds of taste receptors and currently owns 113 patents on their discoveries. Senomyx collaborates with seven of the world's largest food companies to further their research and to fund development of their technology.
Senomyx's products work by amplifying the intensity of flavors. Because very small amounts of the additive are used (reportedly less than one part per million) Senomyx's chemical compounds will not appear on labels, but will fall under the broad category of "artificial flavors." For the same reason, the company's chemicals have not undergone the FDA's usual safety approval process for food additives. Senomyx's MSG-enhancer gained the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status from the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association, an industry-funded organization, in less than 18 months, which included three months of tests on rats.
According to Senomyx's website, it "received a positive review by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, which determined that there were no safety concerns with the use of the Company's savory flavor ingredients in foods. The positive assessment by JECFA is expected to expedite regulatory approvals in a number of countries, particularly those that do not have independent regulatory approval systems."
Two of Senomyx's newest innovations include a Cool Flavor Program that seeks to enhance cooling, menthol sensations, and a Bitter Blocker Program. According to Senomyx's website, the company is collaborating with Solae, the international soy ingredients supplier, "to develop new bitter blockers that better modulate and control bitterness in certain soy-based products." Senomyx has identified the receptors in the mouth responsible for sensing bitter taste and developed a chemical additive to knock out these receptors when eaten with hydrolyzed soy protein and other soy derivatives.
Senomyx's revenues for the last quarter of 2007 were up 87% from the same period in 2006, and its stock prices are rising. CEO Kent Snyder reports that corporate goals include "continuing to achieve significant progress in all of our discovery and development programs such as regulatory approval for our S2383 sucralose enhancer and selection of a sucrose enhancer for regulatory development. We also expect expanded commercialization of food products containing our savory flavor ingredients and additional new business development accomplishments."
- Human receptors for sweet and umami taste
- Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee Meeting, p.81 , Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, May 16, 2001
- Jack Samuels, Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2008.