Jarl Wikberg, the founder of Dicot AB, was in the early 2000s professor at the Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences at Uppsala University. During a conference in South Africa, he met Dr Philippe Rasoanaivo, professor at the Institut Malgache des Recherches Appliquées in Madagascar. Dr Rasoanaivo spoke about his research on the folk medicine use of plants and roots. In particular, he mentioned a decoction based on the root of the tree Neobeguea Mahfalensis which was used to treat failing sexual ability in older men in Madagascar. The effect was said to be long lasting after ingestion.
Dr Wikberg, who was an expert on pharmacologically active substances with an effect on sexual function, became fascinated and proposed a research collaboration. In an initial experiment in Uppsala, a decoction was prepared according to a recipe from Madagascar and given to laboratory animals, after which Dr Wikberg found that the animals became more sexually active.
To better understand the perceived effect in humans, Dr Rasoanavio and one of his colleagues arranged to interview users in Madagascar. During the series of interviews, the men stated that they experienced a clearly improved sexual ability and very mild side effects.
The discovery of Libiguin
Dr Wikberg then wanted to investigate whether there was a pharmacologically active substance in the decoction that triggered the effect, which could thus be reproduced as a semi-synthetic therapeutic drug. Research resulted in the isolation of two previously completely unknown substances named Libiguin A and Libiguin B. In follow-up studies in rats, both substances showed strongly potent effects on their sexual behaviour (link to article).
Due to the synthesis of Libiguin, it was not needed for Dicot to harvest roots from the original plant in Madagascar, which is a limited biological resource. Instead, the attention was turned to plants in southern Africa that carried seeds with a closely related molecule that was inactive. Through a semi-synthesis process in a few short steps, it could be converted into the active substance Libiguin, which was originally produced from the roots in Madagascar. In doing so, Dicot ensured that biological natural resources would not be consumed in an unsustainable manner.