An explosion in microbiome science has prompted Chr. Hansen to appoint a scientific advisory board of “internationally recognised thought leaders in the field” to explore new opportunities for using bacteria to improve human health.
Speaking exclusively to Nutraingredients, Christian Barker, executive VP of the Danish firm’s health and nutrition division said the explosion of peer-reviewed studies highlighting the role of beneficial bacteria and the microbiome in health in the last four years is 'mind blowing'.
"Establishing a world-class advisory board will ensure that we are at the forefront of tapping into the opportunities created by these new insights,” he explained.
Asked what he thought was behind this surge in research activity, he replied: “There have been a number of breakthroughs in our understanding of the human microbiome, driven by interest from the academic community and, more recently, by pharmaceutical start-ups,”
“Basically we’re seeing a strong correlation between the microbiome footprint and a range of conditions, from gastrointestinal health to diabetes," he continued. "These areas are still being investigated and understood but this activity is of great interest to us, as the global leader in probiotics.”
Health claims and EFSA
Barker insisted that the decision to create this board has nothing to do with the rejection of probiotic health claims under the EU nutrition and health claims regulation, saying: “The board will be providing guidance on clinical documentation, but not focused on EFSA claims. We’ve picked a board whose remit is far wider than that.”
In any case, Barker is optimistic about the future prospects for probiotic health claims. “We think that all the science around the microbiome will lead to acceptance of its importance in human health,” he said.
The role of the scientific advisory board will be to provide advice to Chr. Hansen’s management team with respect to new product development, clinical trials and methodologies and partnership opportunities.
“The board will play an advisory role, providing input and ideas to guide our efforts in innovation and clinical documentation and expand our networks in terms of collaboration and partnership opportunities," Barker confirmed. "It will help boost our thinking around the next generation of products we’re bringing to market."
“We have a very strong internal community of scientists and a long tradition of academic collaborations, so really this is just the formalisation of something that has been in evolution for some time,” said Barker.
The board, which will meet twice a year, will consist of:
- Mr Eric Claassen (Chairman), Professor at Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam and at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Mr Gary D Wu, Professor of Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, USA
- Mr Willem M de Vos, Professor of Microbiology, Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and Helsinki University, Finland
- Mr Robert JM Brummer, Professor of Gastroenterology and Clinical Nutrition, Nutrition-Gut-Brain Interactions Research Centre, Örebro University, Sweden
- Ms Ruth Thieroff-Ekerdt, Founder and Member, Panda Consulting, Mendham, USA.