Research into probiotic infant nutrition raises USD 9 million

Signal of change / Research into probiotic infant nutrition raises USD 9 million

By Adam Sadiq / 26 Jan 2016

Prominent biochemist Dr David Kyle, whose research 15 years ago resulted in the inclusion of DHA Omega-3 fats in almost all infant formulas, claims discoveries about the baby microbiome will lead to the “biggest development in infant nutrition in years”. In line with this, Tate and Lyle have invested two million dollars into Dr Kyle’s company Evolve Biosystems, earning the University of California spin out a total of nine million dollars for its first funding round.

Past research projects in the field of the microbiome have demonstrated causal links between caesarean births, formula feeding and antibiotic use and the rise of non-communicable diseases in the west like obesity, food intolerance as well as various allergies and asthma. Dr Kyle hopes to address the shift by developing supplements for the baby nutrition market that restore the baby microbiome.

So what?

Research into the microbiome describes how through our relationship with microorganisms we interact at a metabolic and immune response level with our external environments. The subspecies of Bifidobacterium longum named infantis, which has a prodigious capacity for the metabolism of specific carbohydrates in breast milk, is being lost from infant populations in western and westernising regions. The dynamic relationship here is that carbohydrates specifically found in breastmilk also expand and stabilise colonies of the bacteria, in a way that generic adult probiotics do not. Fostering this relationship is therefore highly important to the development of a baby’s digestive system and has lifelong consequences for newborns as they develop and mature.

Finding ways to address this now could potentially have positive health implications for billions of people in the future as well as relieving financial burdens on healthcare systems related to chronic and non-communicable diseases. Investment in research indicates the possibility of a market-driven approach to affecting a biome shift. Could lifestyle shifts - such as promoting breastfeeding practices and reducing the number of unnecessary caesareans - also prove effective?

Image Credit: Brian Wolfe

Sources

Tate & Lyle (August 18, 2015) Tate & Lyle Ventures backs Evolve BioSystems Inc.

Evolve BioSystems Inc. (August 17, 2015) Evolve BioSystems Inc. Completes $9 million Series A Investment

Dairy Reporter (December 22, 2015) Restoring the damaged baby microbiome: ‘This is the biggest development in infant nutrition in years’

Pub Med (January, 2015) Bifidobacterium longum subspecies infantis: champion colonizer of the infant gut

Dairy Reporter (November 4, 2015) Worldwide infant formula sales set to rocket as China ends one-child policy

What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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