The story began in Bangladesh, where Cera Products founder Charlene Riikonen saw first hand how dehydration causes severe illness and death. Riikonen, then Charlene Dale, was working at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research (ICDDRB) in Dhaka, Bangladesh. There, Oral Rehydration Therapy was discovered by a team of researchers. The researchers included Norbert Hirschhorn and other teams of collaborators from Calcutta.
This research facility, ICDDRB, is an international organization that was established in 1960 as the SEATO-Pakistan Research Lab by the US Government and others in SE Asia. It included researchers and physicians from the US Navy, Johns Hopkins, Harvard and other institutions. Oral Rehydration Solutions, ORS for short, are scientifically formulated combinations of glucose, carbohydrates, certain salts and water.
ORS's have saved millions of lives from deadly diseases like Cholera, which are endemic in Bangladesh and many developing countries. Cholera can kill a healthy adult in as little as 8 hours and a child in half that time. These deaths are from fluid losses or “simple diarrhea.” The ICDDRB, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, educational institutions and government undertook research on what formulations of ORS worked best, which made major strides in saving lives.
The discovery of ORS was hailed by the renowned British medical journal, The Lancet, in 1969 as the most important medical advance of the 20th Century. This claim was authenticated after it was used by physicians at the Centre to bring down the death rate from a cholera outbreak from the typical 50% to less than 3%. Then came the real challenge, making a low cost ORS and getting it into the hands of health care providers and families worldwide.
Nearly 10 years after learning about these efforts, and being involved in the research/educational side, Charlene Riikonen formed Cera Products, Inc. in 1993. Cera Products Inc. was established with the goal of developing an advanced solution that would work even better and more efficiently than the standard glucose-based solution that was developed in the 1960s and 1970s.
Riikonen, along with a handpicked team of experts began the Cera Products’ development work on advanced hydration products. This team included Esko Riikonen, Drs. W. B. Greenough, III and D.A. Sack, Cheryl Mitchell, and physicians from Johns Hopkins University. This woman-owned and operated small business decided to focus on rice-based Oral Rehydration Solutions for several reasons.
First, the science and the clinical studies done in Dhaka and elsewhere indicated that rice was the best choice over other carbohydrate substrates, like wheat, corn, sorghum or others. Secondly, unlike glucose, which is a single-chain carbohydrate, rice is a larger chain and has more carrying power than glucose. In addition, Cera’s rice-based formulations contain a variety of carbohydrate chain lengths (short, medium, and long) and preserve much of the Glutamine and other attributes inherent in rice. It is gluten free and has less of a problem than other carbohydrates in people with these certain allergies.
It was decided that Cera would develop four separate products: ceralyte, for extreme dehydration; cerasport, for sports-related hydration; ceravacx, for vaccine delivery; and ceravet, for small animal hydration. Repeated research has shown that Cera’s rice-based ORS performs better than glucose-based ORS in providing a timed release effect in obtaining electrolyte balance.
By providing both quick and sustained delivery of both the carbohydrates (for energy and quicker delivery) and the electrolytes, it helps reduce stool output by 20 to 50% over glucose ORS. This often helps preventing the need for intravenous therapy or IV. The Cera formula can reduce the symptoms and quicken the recovery of individuals suffering from diarrhea caused by Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, short-gut, traveler's diarrhea or from fluid losses caused by medications(such as for cancer or HIV/AIDS treatment). It is also helpful for athletes who are doing extreme sports or people who sweat heavily in hot weather.
Along with the researchers, Cera was able to field clinical studies which were carried out by renowned researchers in collaboration with major U.S. university researchers. Many of which have been published. In addition to the studies, which includes the ongoing studies, Cera Products Inc. currently holds two patents on its rice-based formulations.
Cera Products Inc. is supported by the State of Maryland, which provided a “Challenge Grant” during the early years of its inception. This enabled Cera Products Inc. to have a website, print literature, and do its first packaging. The Challenge Grant was repaid in three years.
Cera Products Inc. remains grateful to the State of Maryland. Cera’s products are now in all US Air Force medical kits, in military hospitals abroad (in field situations, primarily), and are used in training of special forces of all branches of the US Military. It is present in travel clinics, major university medical centers, and major medical centers and hospitals across the country.
Cera Products Inc. are registered with most of the major pharmaceutical distributors and some food distribution companies, and welcomes distributors at all levels. Cera Products Inc. has distributors in Central America and in South Africa, and exports also to Canada, and is exploring other regions or countries.
Mission Statement: Saving lives, improving the quality of life and reducing health care costs associated with dehydration worldwide. Cera Products Inc. plans to continue research and development for improving its products and its position as a scientific leader in oral rehydration.