Nestle to investigate BLIS probiotic for respiratory health

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Respiratory system Nestlé

Nestle Nutrition has signed an agreement with BLIS Technologies to
investigate the use of probiotics to combat upper respiratory tract
infections in infants, for which there is said to be no effective
prevention at present.

Although probiotics have been used by infant formula makers for some time, particularly since they strive to replicate as closely as possible the nutrient profile of natural breast milk - to date most strains have addressed general immunity or gastrointestinal health. New Zealand-based BLIS Technologies takes its name from Bacteriocin Like Inhibitory Substances, of which Salivaricin B, an antibacterial protein produced by the probiotic strain Streptococcus salivarius K12 is one. The strain was originally sourced from a healthy child who was tracked for several years and never developed sore throats. Grant Washington-Smith, VP business development at BLIS Technologies, told that it strain has been the subject of much academic research over the past 10 years. The focus to date has been around the prevention of sore throats and halitosis, and the study of oral health in children. An earlier study of dental caries and tooth decay in young school children yielded statistical data that also correlated with a lower incidence of inner ear infection (glue ear). "It was found that in many cases the K12 had migrated from the mouth to the nasopharynx region, which is a normal habitat for K12 and S. salivarius,"​ said Washington-Smith. Much of the safety data around K12 and S. salivarius has been compiled over the past decade. So while some of the Genome of K12 has already been studied through the University of Otago and other Universities around the world, a complete sequence would likely be an important development for this organism. Nestle Nutrition has committed to funding BLIS' development of suitable probiotics though a series of milestone and R&D expense payments. Washington-Smith was unable to disclose the actual amount of funding to, but he said it is "six figures plus​" in New Zealand dollars. If the agreement with Nestle succeeds in delivering more evidence in a clinical setting, BLIS has signalled that it will devote "significant resources" to development over the next three years. Its brief is to develop K12 into a format that would be compatible with Nestle products, for example ensuring that it remains shelf stable and viable to colonize under general consumer conditions. For its part Nestle will be the clinical studies (for which BLIS will supply the probiotics), and will commercialise the products under its license as part of its infant nutrition activities. As to further future potential for the K12 strain, Washington-Smith said: "While some of the Genome of K12 has already been studied through the University of Otago and other Universities around the world, a complete sequence would likely be an important development for this organism."​ Nestle Nutrition is an autonomous unit within the Nestle group with a portfolio that includes healthcare nutrition, performance nutrition and weight management, in addition to infant nutrition. But on a global operations scale Nestle has been aiming to transform itself into a nutrition, health and wellness company, and R&D is a crucial part of that transformation. Other ingredients companies with which it has recently announced research collaborations include Australia's Phosphagenics, whose Phospha-E is the subject of clinical trials on metabolic syndrome. In November 2006 Nestle signed an agreement with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) to investigate the role of nutrition in cognitive function, It will contribute up to CHF 5 million (€3.1 million) to the project every year for five years.

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