UK microbiome start-up wins investors as platforms expand

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock
©iStock

Related tags: Nutrition

Publicly listed UK start-up Optibiotix has €4m+ in the bank and is pushing forward on a series of microbiome-focused nutrition projects that include a joint research initiative with weight management giant, SlimFast.

Optibiotix founder, chief executive and microbiologist, Stephen O’Hara, PhD, told us SlimFast products sold in conjunction with Optibiotix supplements based on a microbiome-modulating, satiety promoting, proprietary, patented blend called SlimBiome are set to hit the shelves in 2017.

“We haven’t applied for a health claim – we are going for a medical device,” ​Dr O’Hara said, noting his preference for the route under revision​ at EU level but one favoured by increasing numbers of food supplement manufacturers as health claim channels have shut down. Many supplement-like products have registered as medical devices in recent years across the EU.

“The medical devices route is well-trodden, well known, comprehensible. EFSA [European Food Safety Authority] and the health claims regulation isn’t.”

Four-year-old Optibiotix does not confine itself to weight management, rather to a broader focus on the microbiome and discovery of compounds, strains and technologies that can modify it for better health outcomes. These include skin health and cholesterol management.

In a another field of research, the firm has generated oligosaccharides that permit microbiome modulation by selectively increasing the growth rate of particular microbial species.

“These sugars can be used to supplement the efficacy of existing probiotics so the probiotics can survive longer in the gut and enhance their benefits or modulate endogenous flora to  create a health benefit."

In the cholesterol realm, Dr O’Hara said one strain, Lactobacillusplantarum​, showed “preferential gut survival, attachment, and low cost manufacturing capability characteristics” ​after it applied its screening technology to an initial bank of 4000 strains.

He added: “Having validated the platform in clinical studies we are looking at other chronic lifestyle targets where there is knowledge of the mechanism of action and potential for microbial interaction - e.g. diabetes control with anti-glucosidase inhibitors - with human physiology.”

optibiotix

Its work has attracted the interest of the biggest nutrient supplier in the world, Dutch-based DSM, which it is working with on synbiotic solutions (incorporating prebiotics and probiotics).

The potential of the firm is reflected in the fact it has attracted two rounds of institutional investment totalling about €3m in the past 12 months.

The firm holds 45 patents across 14 families, with eight strain registrations and seven trademarks.

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