The two companies announced that they were joining forces to “leverage” synergies between their respective technologies and services, creating a new contract research organisation (CRO) in the gut-immune health marketplace.
Biofortis Innovation Services is Mérieux NutriSciences’ Paris-based contract research arm, and has particular expertise in conducting clinical studies and microbial genomics, whilst Dutch firm Triskelion brings strength in pre-clinical trials and in vitro gastro intestinal models (TIM) to the table.
Martin Ham, marketing and sales manager at Triskelion, said that by forming a partnership, they were effectively offering a “one stop shop” for contract research.
“Our clients have an innovation funnel and need to be able to produce science-based evidence at various stages. Now we can cover more stages than we could as stand-alone companies,” Ham told NutraIngredients.
This would prove valuable to food and ingredient companies wishing to demonstrate the health benefits of ingredients from a first proof of concept through to the point of human clinical trials required for EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), said Ham.
Don’t pin health claim hopes on us…
Ham was clear that they were not promoting their joint services as a route to winning an elusive EFSA-approved probiotics health claim.
“We will be able to build stronger evidence than simply showing that a microbial shift has taken place, and will be able to deepen scientific understanding of the relationship between gut health and immune health, but it is too soon to say that we can demonstrate a sustained health effect,” he said. “An EFSA-approved health claim for probiotics will only happen when we have consensus on how changes in the microflora relate to a positive health effect.”
With contract research an increasingly crowded marketplace, Ham said that where the Biofortis-Triskelion alliance could add value versus the competition was through its combined knowledge, both in terms of technology and data interpretation from preclinical to clinical.
“Anyone can buy an instrument to sequence microbes. Where we distinguish ourselves is in our ability to understand what that data could mean. The TIM models we use are some of the best available in relation to predictability to human situations, but it’s about knowing how to use the models to make them as predictive as possible.”
An example of the type of project that might be jointly undertaken by the two companies, could be where food or ingredient companies are looking to build on evidence of a microbial shift to demonstrate a systemic effect for an ingredient.
“Say a company has a pro-prebiotic compound we can study for instance microbial shifts in our validated TIM model. We have an in vitro model that mimics the colon. Through Biofortis’ microbial capabilities we can also find out what flora are increasing or decreasing and what metabolites are being produced from these bacteria in a clinical situation. By analysing the transcriptome and/or metabolome, we can find out what that means for the host,” said Ham.
Besides collaborating on contract research projects, the two companies plan to jointly develop new products and services.
“We already have models to investigate the luminal part of the gut and the small intestine, and would like to develop various preclinical models to investigate gut-host interactions,” said Ham.
Despite having complementary capabilities, Biofortis and Triskelion haven’t worked together before. Ham explained that this partnership actually came out of discussions about collaborating on food nutrient testing in China.
“During these discussions it became clear that there were lots of synergies between the two companies. We identified microbiome and immune health research as two fields where we had mutually compatible capabilities. We decided to map out our services and see how they fitted with one another and where there was scope for developing new products and services,” he said.