Scientists Collaborate to Make Science Better


Since the inception of Alkemist Labs ~7,117 days ago, we have ridden the wake of an industry inflection point where a serious adulteration of Plantago sp. with Digitalis sp. woke up the FDA and shook the industry world wide. FDA responded by offering instructions on the foundations of plant ID (Botanical Microscopy) and HPTLC, and it was good. It was collaborative in nature and was intended to engage and empower the industry to self-regulate. Alongside this leaf from the Olea sp. tree were thorny threats that if self-regulation wasn’t taken seriously, the Agency would step in and change the landscape as we knew it. We took the bait and Alkemist Labs was born.

About 5,475 days ago an inflection point for us came in the form of tremendous growth when an adulteration issue in Australia gave their version of FDA (TGA) reason to pull nearly every botanical off the shelves. It took a collaboration of growers, brokers and contract manufacturers to single out the root cause (actually it was a leaf) and get back on their feet.

Around the same time, or slightly before, trade associations like AHPA began to up their ante by rallying industry stakeholders to come together and collaborate in order to present a unified voice for the herbal industry. If you are unfamiliar with AHPA and also reading this newsletter, I am simply amazed. Founded in 1982, The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) is the national trade association and voice of the herbal products industry. Its mission is to promote the responsible commerce of herbal products and they do this very successfully through a collaborative group of committees and working groups.

My first cognizant experience of collaboration with AHPA was about 4,380 days ago when the industry came together to establish analytical tools for identification and determination of purity of powdered raw materials labeled as Hoodia gordonii stems. There were major economic adulteration issues surrounding this endangered plant and several labs came together to offer the industry free guidance on testing adulteration out of the industry. Alkemist Labs went further, offering our methods of analysis and services for free as a gesture of our loyalty to the industry that enables us to put food on our tables.

In the years before we got too busy we filled a lot of our time collaborating with Roy Upton of AHP (American Herbal Pharmacopoeia) helping to develop the botanical microscopy in some of the early monographs. It was truly the transformative relationship we needed to begin building our herbarium collection.

Over 50% of Alkemist Labs upper management members participate collaboratively in the industry in one way or another. My father Sidney Sudberg, Alkemist Labs CSO, is a technical advisor for the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and serves on various committees of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists, including the Methods Committee on Statistics and the Executive Committee of the Technical Division on Reference Materials (TDRM). Dr. Holly Johnson, our Lab Director, spends significant amounts of her time serving on committees in AHPA, AHP, ABC, UNPA, USP and AOAC.

Numerous inflection points in our collective trajectory as an industry have reinforced the importance and efficacy of collaboration as an effective tool to resolve the issues that invariably arise. Collaboration is the ‘crowd sourcing’ for challenges or adversity whether self-derived or from a series of simply unfortunate events otherwise known as ‘adulteration issues’, ‘media attacks’ or ‘supply chain challenges.’ Throughout history collaboration has insured the survival of the species and facilitated its progress. Today collaboration is vital to the sustainability of our industry’s future. We see commitment to being collaborative as not only ethical, but good business sense, which is why Alkemist Labs staff donate quite a bit of time back to the industry through AHPA committees, USP committees, AOAC committees and many others. We’ve been involved in collaboratively developing methods to identify peanut skin in grape fruit seed extract, detect fortification in ginkgo, new, more accurate methods to measure phytocannabinoids, and the wrong species sold as St Johns Wort. We encourage all of our clients and colleagues to become similarly involved.

Experts coming together to solve problems for the common good has historically solved problems, established beneficial methods, established protections, and kept good science an integral part of the industry. It requires open communication, patience and transparency. We highly recommend it.


Elan Sudberg, CEO
Alkemist Labs


Categories: News & Events