Ric Scalzo

Institute for Botanical Research

Located in Tempe, Arizona, Sonoran University of Health Sciences is honored to be home to the Ric Scalzo Institute for Botanical Research. In collaboration with the natural products industry and other academic institutions, this state-of-the-art molecular biology/phytochemistry laboratory is dedicated to developing new products and improving existing botanical therapeutics through scientific exploration grounded in clinical herbalism’s rich tradition.[1]

Mission: “Explore traditional medicine at the cellular, molecular and cultural level to create novel botanical solutions that support people, plants and planet.”

Available Opportunities

Unique Botanical Research Model

Scope of Research

  • Integrate Western scientific methods with Naturopathic Medicine, Ayurveda and TCM disciplines of traditional medicine. Staff Researchers from various disciplines perform exhaustive literature review.
  • Pilot clinical studies investigating efficacy and metabolomics of selected plants/products
  • Development of evidence-based botanical formulations for Natural Products Industry
  • Intellectual Property developed for licensure to Pharma and Nutraceutical companies for Botanical Drug Development and other intellectual property

Research Model & Team

  • Leverage the wisdom and clinical experiences of Sonoran Faculty
  • Supply Chain Sustainability Consultation and Development
  • Scientific literature reviews of each plant being studied (historical uses, formulations, extractions, clinical in-vitro, in-silico, and in-vitro research reviews)
  • Development of a comprehensive understanding of potential synergistic/entourage formulations.
  • Innovation applying all disciplines of medicine to develop complimentary and highly efficacious botanical therapies integrating all philosophies and validating with bioassay guided characterization, isolation, and purification of natural products.

Academic Institution Collaborations

  • Arizona State University, The University of Mississippi, and The Susan Samueli Integrative Health Foundation, and future partners to optimize research activities, increase acceptance and awareness, and improve botanical research and education.


A Look Inside the Lab

  • Preparative HPLC
    • inc Emp.ower 3
  • Fractionation columns
  • Fraction collector
  • Detection equipment
  • LC/MS (UHPLC with DAD, SQ MS and ELSD detectors)
  • Helium tank
  • Rotary Evaporators (2)
  • Sonicator
  • Benchtop dry mixer
  • Benchtop liquid mixer
  • Oven
  • Water bath sonicator
  • Nitrogen generator
  • Prep-HPLC equipped with UV, ELSD detectors
  • Jacketed Steam Kettles for extraction
  • REAX- shakers/ extractors
  • Soxhlet Extraction
  • SpeedVac
  • Freeze Dryer
  • Microcentrifuge
  • Medium Pressure Liquid Chromatography (MPLC)
  • Incubator, CO2 x2
  • Biosafety cabinet x 2
  • Real time PCR
  • Standard PCR
  • Gel equipment (DNA, protein, western blot)
  • Gel equipment power supply
  • Film developer (dark room)
  • Inverted microscope (with camera)
  • Standard microscope (with camera)
  • Autoclave
  • Speedvac
  • Gel photo doc system
  • Light box
  • Gel drier
  • Transilluminator
  • Incubator, 37°C
  • Culture rotator
  • ELISA plate reader
  • Orbital floor shaker/incubator
  • UV liquid disinfection system
  • Fluorescent activated cell sorter
  • Fluorescent microscope
  • Liquid nitrogen tank (and delivery)
  • Water purification system
  • Vacuum pump (x2)
  • Balance/scales (x2)
  • Flammable material storage cabinet
  • Flammable storage freezer
  • UV Spectrophotometer/Fluorometer
  • Laboratory Fume Hood
  • pH meter
  • Computers (x2)
  • Refrigerator (x2)
  • -80°C freezer
  • -20°C freezer
  • Microcentrifuge x 2
  • Low speed centrifuge
  • High speed centrifuge
  • Ultracentrifuge
  • Flammable material storage cabinet
  • Vortex x 3
  • Platform rocker x 2
  • Water bath x 2
  • Heat block x 2
  • Pipettors (automatic)
  • Pipettors (manual)
  • Misc equipment (pipettes, beakers, cylinders, etc)

The Process

Botanical formulations present challenges for rigorous scientific testing to understand their actual therapeutic efficacy.

To assess a botanical’s medicinal potential, two factors need to be understood:

  • The chemical composition, stability, and consistency across manufacturing batches
  • The botanical’s mechanism of action within a cell and the body.
  • The current state of knowledge of the botanical is evaluated related to traditional/historical therapeutic activity
  • Relevant scientific literature published
  • Accessibility of in vitro bioassay systems available

Once assessed, valid plant material is obtained and tested for basic biological activity. This in vitro system will be optimized and modified to develop a consistent and reliable method to evaluate and/or validate the biological activity of a specific botanical. From this, optimal extraction, concentration and delivery methods can be developed, pilot clinical trials performed, and further deciphering of the specific mechanism of action of the botanical completed.

In addition, through bioassay-guided fractionation and purification, the constituent profile of a botanical can be used to standardize botanical therapies and the active therapeutic compound(s) isolated and identified.

By combining this in-depth analysis of botanicals, novel synergistic botanical blends can be designed and traditional formulas can be optimized to target different aspects of a disease. Thus, the therapeutic claims can be validated, as well as herbal product standardization and quality control can be performed to develop evidence-based, standardized natural products.

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