Editor's spotlight: Startup Focus

Optimising appetite: Probiotic startup exploits gut-brain link to 'retrain' the obese and malnourished

By Nikki Cutler contact

- Last updated on GMT

From left to right: Sergueï Fetissov, Grégory Lambert and Pierre Déchelotte
From left to right: Sergueï Fetissov, Grégory Lambert and Pierre Déchelotte
A trio of biotech experts from France have developed a probiotic start-up company which aims to utilise the gut-brain axis to retrain the appetite of both obese and malnourished patients.

Claiming to sell the first probiotic with a fully described molecular mechanism of action in the gut - brain axis, French startup TargEDys aims to be at the forefront of safe and effective weight management.

The company was originally founded by professors Pierre Déchelotte and Sergueï Fetissov, of Université de Rouen, whose study on how the microbiome regulates appetite was published in ‘Translational Psychiatry’ ​ in 2014.

The researchers identified a protein that mimics the satiety hormone (melanotropin). This protein (ClpB) is produced by certain bacteria, such as Escherichia coli​, which are naturally present in the intestinal flora.

The firm's CEO Gregory Lambert, a former chief scientific officer in bio-tech and pharma, explains how the mechanism works.

“After a meal, intestinal bacteria feed on the ingested food and begin to multiply. During this growth phase, the bacteria produce various signals that allow them to interact with the brain.

“One such signal is the protein ClpB, produced by Enterobacteria naturally present in the intestines. ClpB has been identified as a mimetic of the satiety hormone (α-MSH) that regulates food behaviour at both peripheral and central levels.

“When released, ClpB directly stimulates the enteroendocrine L-cells of the intestine to produce satiety hormones.

IMG_4350
EnteroSatys

“ClpB also enters the bloodstream to act on satiety regulation in the central nervous system by mimicking α-MSH. The resulting effect is the feeling of satiety or fullness after a meal.”

This knowledge acts as the basis of TargEDys’ dietary supplements. The team has created optimised, high-concentration bacteria strains which can be used to moderate and restore the appetite.

The appetite regulation supplement, Enterosatys, was launched into the French market in December last year.

Ethical idea

Lambert explains why this product is much more effective, and ethical, than other weight management products on the market.

“We are not in the slimming market. I think this market is lacking a lot of ethics especially if you give sugar burners and fat binders, these are all products that will not have a sustained effect because they are not re-educating the subject to eat less. These products will actually make them more hungry and make them eat more which is exactly what they should avoid.

“EnteroSatys will help people to follow the WHO recommendations for calorie intake. It isn’t a magic pill as it will not induce effortless weight loss but we have already had excellent feedback from consumers saying they have noticed the satiety effect within a week of taking it.”

Common sense for consumers

Speaking about consumers’ response to the product, Lambert says the general public seems very comfortable with the idea their microbiome can control their appetite.

“What’s excellent for us is that people are saying they are feeling the satiety effect within one week of taking the product.”

“It seems very logical that the microbiome can influence our hunger. People are more and more aware of the microbiome, this is really something everybody is talking about so it’s a well-accepted idea by consumers."

Lambert explains this microbiome mechanism of appetite regulation will allow anorexic patients to better understand that their condition is not only psychological: “In the past it has been assumed that anorexia is a purely psychological problem. It is partly psychological but it is also because there is this bacteria protein which acts as a satiety hormone that’s found in anorexic subjects’ microbiomes which causes them to feel full.”

The company is also developing a product for increasing the appetite which they hope will be useful for the elderly, the malnourished and people with anorexia.

TargEDys is currently looking for commercial partners as it continues to research how the appetite can be re-trained through bacterial strains.

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