Probiota 2021: A conversation with Orla O'Sullivan

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Probiota 2021: A conversation with Orla O'Sullivan

Related tags: Probiota, Orla O'Sullivan, Keynote

With less than two weeks to go till Probiota, NutraIngredients spoke to one of the keynote speakers for the event to hear her thoughts on current and future trends on all things microbiome-related.

Dr Orla O’Sullivan, Senior Research Officer at Ireland’s Teagasc Food Research Centre is scheduled to kick off proceedings as the first speaker in the ‘Beyond the Gut’ session on Wednesday 10 February.

Alongside this role, Orla is also Principal Investigator with VistaMilk and a Funded Investigator with APC Microbiome Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centres.

Dr Orla O’Sullivan
Dr Orla O’Sullivan, Senior Research Officer, Teagasc Food Research Centre. ©Orla O'Sullivan

She is a computational biologist focusing on elucidating the microbiome from a variety of ecosystems including soil, food, rumen and human gut.

Of particular interest to her is how food and food ingredients shape the human gut microbiome both in healthy and diseased cohorts.

In 2018 Orla was listed as a Clarivate Highly cited Researcher and was on the SCOPUS list in 2020. In 2019 was awarded the highly prestigious SFI Early Career Researcher of the Year.Be1j1ng2018((

Thanks for taking the time to speak to NutraIngredients. Firstly, could you comment on your upcoming keynote presentation and why people should tune in?

“In recent years it has become evident that our indigenous microbes play a pivotal role in maintaining out health.

“The microbes within us play significant roles in hormone regulation, immunity, digestion and mood regulation to name but a few.

“With the ever-looming threat of antibiotic resistance safer treatment alternatives must be sought. A logical step is the use of pre and probiotics targeted at specific conditions. In the coming years I believe both, pre and probiotics will be essential in health maintenance.”

Could you comment on the gut’s importance, particularly as it plays such a prominent role in other areas such as sports nutrition, personalisation and cognitive health?

“As previously stated, it is evident that our gut microbes are essential for health and keeping these microbes healthy is critical. 

“Whilst we do not know in detail what constitutes a healthy microbe, we do know that diversity is key; it has been demonstrated that reduced diversity in the gut is associated with diseases including obesity, type II diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.

“Two of the main drivers of this diversity are diet and fitness maintaining a healthy lifestyle will maintain gut health.

“Fitness, diet and gut microbiome are intrinsically linked so for an athlete maintaining good gut health is imperative for performance.

“Recent studies have identified certain microbes that are increased in athlete populations and these have potential to be developed as probiotics targeted to the fitness market.”

“This is the first time that Probiota has gone online. Do you see any advantages to switching to this format or do you prefer the face-to-face events?

“Whilst I enjoy being able to attend more conferences without travel and leaving family, I personally feel you can never replace the face-to-face experience. Meeting people in person allows for better connection.”

Finally, as a previous speaker and attendee of the Probiota events, could you comment on the presentations and content you’ve heard and the relevance this event has on the microbiome science community?

“Probiota conferences are always relevant and topical to the time. I always like the mix of academia and industry.”

Dr O’Sullivan is the keynote speaker in the ‘Beyond the Gut’​ session on Wednesday 10 February at 14:00 GMT​.

Register​ for this session and others​​ below and join us for a three-day exploration of the probiotic, prebiotic and microbiome space.

9 - 11 FEBRUARY, 2021      3-DAY SUMMIT

Connecting the business and science of the microbiome


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