The agreement, announced today, gives Novartis' Medical Nutrition business unit global exclusivity for the development of oral nutrition and enteral tube feeding products and devices related to specific health conditions, using the Swedish company's Reuteri bacteria.
BioGaia's Reuteri bacteria and delivery systems are already used in functional food products and dietary supplements. But deputy managing director Jan Annwall told NutraIngredients.com that the agreement is very big news for the company.
Although unable to give details of how much of its sales BioGaia envisages coming from the medical nutrition market, Annwall said: "I expect this to be our most important contract in the future."
He added that it will take some time to establish a presence in this new area.
With a turnover of $1.12 billion in 2004, Novartis Medical Nutrition currently makes products for people suffering from a range of indications including gastrointestinal impairment, diabetes, eating disorders and immunity-related. Some of the products are suitable for use by consumers, as well as by patients and health professionals.
The findings of a study into the beneficial effect of probiotic Reuteri drops on colicky infants were presented this weekend at the European Society for Paediatric Research Meeting in Siena, Italy in September.
However in December 2005 BioGaia announced the cessation of a two-year study into the effects of probiotics on allergies such as eczema in babies, following disappointing initial results.