Two months after Abbott Nutrition described brain food research as “one of our top global priorities”, Nestlé Health Science has acquired a stake in Accera, the US firm behind Axona, a medical food targeted at people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-USA last night, a Nestlé spokesman said: “We have been investing in Accera since 2004 via our venture capital fund Inventages, but this is Nestlé Health Science making a direct investment in the company and getting a seat on the board.
“The significance of this deal is not about spending a huge amount of money but it is a big strategic step for us into the brain health area as well as a big step for Alzheimer’s patients as we are putting the might of Nestlé behind this brand.
“This is our first move into brain health and something we were in a hurry to do. When we set up Nestlé Health Science we looked at different areas where we thought we could really do some good.
“If you look at the acquisitions that Nestlé Health Science has made we are in a whole new area where food crosses with pharma and there are not that many companies out there that are well-established, so you have got to go and find them.”
Four human clinical trials and more to come
A prescription medical food targeting people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), Axona has been on the US market since 2009, he said.
“More than 30,000 people have used it since the launch and it is now covered by more than 1,350 health plans in the US.”
Asked about the science behind the product, which is claimed to improve memory and cognitive function in mild to moderate AD patients, he said: “Accera has already done four human clinical trials on people with memory impairment and mild to moderate AD to demonstrate its safety and efficacy.
“But it is planning more trials with 3-400 patients at 40 sites across the US over a six month period.”
A strategic step forward in building up our brain health portfolio
Accera is a privately-held company which specializes in medical foods for people with neurodegenerative disorders such as AD.
Nestle’s input will help the firm expand its clinical development program and strengthen its commercial capabilities in the US, said president and CEO Holger Kunze.
“Longer term, it will also give us the opportunity to enlarge the geographic footprint of Axona.”
Nestlé Health Science president and CEO Luis Cantarell added: “Axona is an innovative medical food with a well understood mode of action and offers the potential for personalized nutrition for AD patients.
“Our stake in Accera is a strategic step forward in building up our brain health portfolio.”
What is Axona?
Alzheimer's disease patients exhibit a decline in the ability to metabolize glucose in the brain, which can in turn lead to impaired memory and cognition and brain shrinkage.
Axona is a proprietary formulation of caprylic triglyceride that is converted by the liver into ketone bodies, which provide an alternative source of energy for brain cells and have been demonstrated to protect neurons.
Nestlé Health Science
Created in 2011, Nestlé Health Science aims to bridge the gap between traditional nutrition and pharmaceutical industries through the development of science-based products for gastrointestinal health, metabolic health and brain health.
To date it has invested in firms including Vitaflo (clinical nutritional solutions for infants, children and adults with genetic disorders that affect how food is processed by the body); CM&D Pharma Ltd (products for patients with chronic kidney disease); and Prometheus Laboratories (diagnostics and licensed specialty pharmaceuticals in GI and oncology).
It also holds a minority stake in Vital Foods, a New Zealand based company that specializes in kiwifruit-based products for gastrointestinal conditions.
Food for thought
Its investment in Accera comes hot on the heels of a tie up between Abbott Nutrition and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) aimed at advancing our understanding of the relationship between diet and cognition - and creating the next generation of brain foods targeting consumers at every life stage. (Click here for details.)
Datamonitor predicts that cognitive health foods will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.8% between 2009 and 2014, rising from $1.198bn to $2.095bn.
This compares with a CAGR of 4.4% for bone and joint health products; 7.7% for digestive and immunity health products and 4.8% for heart health products.