Peek Inside: Probiota 2019 - Copenhagen

EC: ‘Prediction & prevention’ on the agenda in future EU microbiome-based projects

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock
©iStock
The shift from a ‘diagnose and treat’ mind-set to a ‘predict and prevent’ approach is making rapid gains in the food and nutrition industry as consumers look to innovation to make better dietary and nutritional decisions.

Dr Dirk Hadrich, believes technology’s adoption, particularly in the personalisation and human microbiome arena, will enable a level of foresight that will aid in an enhanced dietary approach thus preventing disease and improving health.

Yes, we have this trend towards prediction and prevention,”​ said Dr Hadrich in an interview with NutraIngredients.

“There is also convergence with nutrition data being included into the exercise of big data analytics. However, depending on the research question there will always be some focus on one or another specific direction.”

Emerging technologies

Dr Dirk Hadrich
Dr Dirk Hadrich, Policy and Programme officer, European Commission. ©DirkHadrich

Dr Hadrich, policy and programme officer at the European Commission, refers to emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning that are being hailed as next generation research tools better able to handle data-heavy microbiome projects.

It’s a direction that the European commission has lent much support and investment in and will be the focus of Dr Hadrich’s presentation at Probiota this year.

Hosted in Copenhagen in association with the International Probiotics Assocation (IPA), his talk ‘Microbiome research and innovation projects funded by the EU,’ intends to discuss the wealth of microbiome projects looking into tools to predict health and disease.

The number of health-related microbiome projects has almost doubled in the last three years, with EU funding almost twice that of non-health related gut research.

According to the European Commission, 73 microbiome health projects received €167.2m in grants between 2014 and 2017 – up from the €153.4m given to 40 projects between 2007 and 2013.

MetaHIT

One such project was MetaHIT​, a research initiative that attempts to establish associations between the genes of the human intestinal microbiota and health and disease.

With a prime focus on Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and obesity MetaHIT is a project that appear to have had a catalysing effect with its produced catalogue of gut microbes as well as the proposed distinct ‘enterotypes’.

“MetaHIT was very focused on a metagenomics catalogue,”​ said Dr Hadrich. “We are now moving to more specialised applications for personalised medicine and concrete products for the market.”

A number of EC-supported projects are set to begin or continue in 2019 to find applications and enhance knowledge on the microbiome, host metabolism, nutrition and immune responses.

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Probiota 2019​​

The rapidly evolving universe of probiotics, prebiotics and the microbiome will be discussed in-depth at the upcoming Probiota 2019​ in Copenhagen on February 13-15.

From microbiome advances, to start-up game changers, market stats, crucial clinical science and regulatory knowledge, this is a congressional must-have.

Will you be joining your peers in one of Europe’s great cities?

These projects include BabyVir,​ a Dutch-based project looking into the role of the virome in shaping the gut ecosystem during the first year of life.

In particular, the research team will determine which intrinsic and environmental factors, including genetics and the mother’s microbiome and diet, interact with the virome in shaping the early gut microbiome ecosystem.

Gut role in brain disorders

One European Research Council-funded project is METAMAPPER​, a Belgium-based project looking into gut microbiota’s role in the etiology of obesity, cardiovascular disease, inflammation and neurological conditions amongst others.

The multinational nature of the projects currently coming to an end or are continuing give rise to a wealth of opportunity to share knowledge. Equally, there are challenges in a variance of methodologies, standards and international collaboration.

Dr Hadrich, also a co-chair of the steering committee of the International Human Microbiome Consortium (IHMC), commented on the potential to agree methods, data comparability and overseas partnerships.

“In the IHMC we try to agree methods and standards that we can use jointly because consequently we could better compare the gathered data,”​ he said.

“The challenge is that many countries undertake already this kind of research, they have developed their own methods and want to keep on using them because they planned it like this. Everybody goes its own ways because working together is hard.”

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