Provexis developed the extract in conjunction with the University of Liverpool. After screening a number of natural products, researchers found that soluble fibre from the plantain, or non-starch polysaccharides, stops the intestinal lining from attracting bacteria that are thought to contribute to inflammatory episodes in IBD. Provexis flagship ingredient technology is tomato-derived Fruitflow, which is presently used in its demonstration heart-health product in the UK, Sirco. It is presently in discussions with a major food company for Fruitflow's use in a broad spectum of food categories. No indication has been given of whether Provexis plans to follow a similar route to market for the plantain extract, nor on which side of the Atlantic foods containing it are likely to appear first. But the indications are that these still some way off since the company is aiming to commence a large-scale one-year human trial using a proptype later this year. Crohn's disease a chronic infammatory bowel disease that is thought to affect between 27 and 48 people per 100,000 in Northern Europe. Plantain, typically found in the West Indies, are large bananas that need to be cooked before being eaten. Many of the countries where plantain flour is a diet staple have a low incidence of Crohn's disease, although the plant has not been significantly investigated for its health benefits. Provexis is not the only company investigating the potential for fruit extracts in dealing with the disease. New Zealand's Hort Research said earlier this year that it has seen positive results on how apple extracts impact genes associated with Crohn's disease as part of a collaboration to understand how food and disease are linked at a molecular genetic level.
Last week Provexis said is planning to raise £2.15m (c €3.14) to fund trials on the plantain-based technology and to further development of Fruitflow.