Probiota Champions: In conversation with Dr Mary Ellen Sanders

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Probiota Champions: In conversation with Dr Mary Ellen Sanders

Related tags Probiotics ISAPP Prebiotics synbiotics

Greater understanding in precision around synbiotics – that synergistic combination of probiotics and prebiotics – will create many exciting opportunities in the future, and will also advance our understanding of our resident microbes, says Dr Mary Ellen Sanders.

Dr Sanders is an internationally recognized expert and consultant in probiotics, and she is also known for co-founding the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics, which she remains intensely involved in to this day. She is also the chair of the ongoing USP Probiotics Expert Panel.

In a wide-ranging interview with NutraIngredients-USA for its recent Probiota Americas Probiota Champions​ video series, Dr Sanders told us that she is really excited about the potential opportunities offered by greater precision around synbiotics.

“Coming off of the synbiotics consensus panel effort​ that we put together, I think a really exciting area is going to be in added precision in using these substances [probiotics plus prebiotics],”​ said Dr Sanders.

“There are a variety of ways to get added precision, and one of them would be to really design a true synergistic synbiotic where you have a prebiotic-like substance, whatever it happens to be, matched with a live microbe that together really bring about a specific effect and potentially at even low doses.  

“Because a design like allows you to pick the microbe that has the traits you need, as opposed to a prebiotic - and I love the prebiotic approach – but you have to hope that the microbes that are going to do what you need them to do what are present in your resident microflora.

“I think this added precision is important, and I think it’s important, too, in understanding the role that our resident microbes play in efficacy. We know that you can look at any probiotic trial and you see groups of people who respond and groups of people who don’t respond. What is driving that? And we don’t have a good sense of it. It could be resident microbes, it could be diet, it could be underlying health conditions, it could be a variety of factors that might control that, but I think as the field moves forward we’re going to be able to get more precise.

“I think that’s going to feed in a little bit more to the drug model – the live biotherapeutic model – but not exclusively. I think there’s plenty of opportunity for food to explore those avenues as well.”

The founding of ISAPP

Dr Sanders also co-founded the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) with Prof Glenn Gibson​, which she acknowledges was a reaction to the proposal by Jarrow Rogovin​ for an industry association dedicated to probiotics (Rogovin founded the International Probiotics Association).

“Jarrow conceptualized IPA and he viewed this as an organization, and actually had approached me to be involved in the organization, focused on industry, and to help promote the quality in the industry, and they were very reasonable goals. But as he talked to me about it, what I realized that I was more interested in was an association that was focused on the science.

“And so, I didn’t get involved in IPA, but it got me thinking about whether this was something we should consider that has a different focus to what Jarrow had proposed.”

After discussions with Prof Gibson and Dr Irene Lenoir-Wijnkoop, who was with Danone at the time, there was enthusiasm to create an association that looked at both probiotics and prebiotics. ISAPP was incorporated as a non-profit in 2002, and then Prof Gregor Reid stepped up to host the first ISAPP meeting, said Dr Sanders.

“If Gregor hadn’t made that step forward, I don’t know – we may still be talking it, but he was brave enough to go ahead and do it.”

To watch the full interview, please click below.

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