Patent Watch

Mead Johnson-Reckitt Benckiser seeks international patents on infant formula for brain development and metabolism

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

iStock / vchal
iStock / vchal
The Mead Johnson-Reckitt Benckiser merger has filed two international patents for formulations with dietary butyrate, which it says can improve brain development and reduce metabolic syndrome in infants.

Writing in the international patent filings, Mead Johnson-Reckitt Benckiser said it has developed a formulation with dietary butyrate that promotes and accelerates myelination​ and another with dietary butyrate and/or lactoferrin to reduce the incidence of obesity and metabolic syndrome​. 

Mead Johnson previously filed patents for the formulas in the US in December 2016, ahead of its $16.7bn takeover from Reckitt Benckiser in February, last year.​ These international filings now take priority.

Better brain development

Mead Johnson-Reckitt Benckiser said the infant formula blend containing dietary butyrate can promote brain development, specifically synaptogenesis and neurogenesis, and optimise myelination (the coating of the axon of each neuron with lipid-rich myelin) in the neurological tissues of children. This then provides benefits like improved cognition, memory function, learning capacity, social interaction skills, visual acuity, motor skills, language skills and reduced anxiety.

“Proper myelination ensures that neurological signals are conducted more efficiently and better enables connectivity with certain regions of the brain. Breastfed infants experience increased or accelerated myelination in comparison to formula-fed infants; accordingly there exists the need to provide an infant formula or nutritional composition that is capable of increasing or accelerating myelination in formula-fed infants,” ​it wrote in its patent filing.

Within the blend, made from a carbohydrate, protein, fat/lipid and the butyrate (along with probiotics, prebiotics, vitamins, minerals and long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids if desired), it said the dietary butyrate must be present at levels between 0.1mg per 100 Kcal to around 300mg per 100 Kcal.

It also suggests a “staged feeding regimen” ​for infants on the formula in light of “changing requirements during development”​, with a slow increase on the dietary butyrate content according to infant age: 4-36mg/ml from birth to three months; 6-33mg/ml from three to six months; and 8-40mg/ml from six months the one year.

“Currently, many infant formulas are not formulated with dietary butyrate or are not formulated with effective amounts of dietary butyrate for providing a beneficial health effect once administered to the infant,” ​Mead Johnson-Reckitt Benckiser wrote. One reason for this, it said, is the “unpleasant organoleptic properties”​ dietary butyrate can exhibit.

Its formula, therefore, provides a “pleasant sensory experience” ​thanks to encapsulation or coating of the dietary butyrate and incorporation of inositol to provide a sweeter taste that is more palatable to paediatric consumers.

A variety of dietary butyrate sources can be used, including animal fats like milk, cream and butter or plant-derivatives like seed oils, green beans and oats. For inositol, the ingredient has to be present at a level no greater than 70mg/100 Kcal.

Mead Johnson-Reckitt Benckiser said the butyrate formulation can also provide the basis for a 'growing-up milk' product where minerals and flavourings can be added.

Obesity prevention 

In the second patent, it said administration of a formulation containing dietary butyrate and/or lactoferrin – similar to its brain development formula – can be used for“reducing the incidence of obesity and/or metabolic syndrome in a target subject”.

Mead Johnson-Reckitt Benckiser said this is important given how childhood overweight and obesity has increased substantially in the past two decades, causing cardiovascular, muscle/skeletal, and endocrine complications to start in early childhood.

It said the infant formula reduces incidence through improving adipose tissue functioning and quality in the formula-fed infant, as well as strengthening overall capacity and flexibility of fat tissues. In addition, the blending of dietary butyrate and lactoferrin or use of each ingredient in isolation may also provide anti-inflammatory properties, reducing inflammatory processes in fat tissues, the liver and brain.

“Indeed, dietary butyrate or lactoferrin may affect energy homeostasis, glucose metabolism, and insulin sensitivity. Dietary supplementation with dietary butyrate may prevent the developments of diet-induced insulin resistance and improve insulin sensitivity, thus promoting health metabolic programming and reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome,” ​it wrote in the patent filing.

“...Without being bound by any particular theory, mechanistically dietary butyrate, lactoferrin or combinations of the two act through promotion of mitochondrial energy expenditure and modulation of the inflammatory response. These mechanisms may be involved in maintaining healthy weight during infancy and paediatric development. There is evidence of synergy with their combination.”

The lactoferrin can be sourced either from non-human animal milk like bovine, porcine and goat or genetically modified organisms, they said, and must be incorporated at rates of 25mg/100ml – 150mg/100ml. Whatever the source, Mead Johnson-Reckitt Benckiser said it is important the ingredient has at least 48% homology with the amino acid sequence of human lactoferrin.

Source: WIPO International Patent No. WO2018108841
Published: June 21, 2018. Filed: December 11, 2017.
Title: “Nutritional Compositions Containing Butyrate And Uses Thereof”
Authors: Mead Johnson Nutrition Company / Reckitt Benckiser (Brands) Ltd 

Source: WIPO International Patent No. WO2018108931
Published: June 21, 2018. Filed: December 12, 2017
Title: “Nutritional Compositions Containing Butyrate And/Or Lactoferrin And Uses Thereof”
Authors: Mead Johnson Nutrition Company / Reckitt Benckiser (Brands) Ltd

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