NutraIngredients-USA caught up with Dr. Vivek Lal, CEO at ResBiotic and director of clinical innovation at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who discussed the decade of microbiome and botanical science that went into developing the company’s first formula and why people should be looking at their lung health through their microbiomes.
As an Intensive Care Unit physician by clinical training and a National Institutes of Health-funded microbiome scientist by research training, he also stressed the need for a paradigm shift towards the development of science-backed, clinically tested, transparently sourced, efficacious products, although he noted that this is “a tougher path to take”.
NIU: What motivated you to launch ResBiotic? What went into building the brand?
VL: ResBiotic’s journey began at the patient bedside around 10 years ago while observing the role the microbiome plays in various health and disease states. We started sequencing both normal patients and patients with various illnesses to study their systems biology including transcriptomics, genomics, proteomics metabolomics, micrornaomics and microbiomics. We realized that the microbiome was playing a major role in host homeostasis.
Since then, we have been studying how microbe-host interactions and microbe-botanical interactions affect overall health. We explored how gut bacteria and other novel bioactive compounds communicate with different organs of our body and affect health. From there, we created the concept of 'Gut-X' axis and came with several concept products in the gut-lung, gut-heart, gut-brain, gut-female, gut-aging, gut-skin, gut-pet and other categories.
We launched our first product for the 'Gut-Lung axis' in 2021 – what the consumers know as resB Lung Support. Since then, we have had significant growth in D2C online sales and plan to enter retail very soon. Our second product will launch in Q4 of 2023, and ResBiotic (a.k.a. Restoration Biotic) is eyeing several other categories based on our science backed product concepts.
NIU: What should consumers know about the importance of lung health today? How is the gut microbiome connected to respiratory health?
VL: The lungs have always been one of the vital organs of the body. COVID has sparked interest in respiratory health through mainstream media, with people realizing how important it is to take care of their lungs – so much so that the lung health market that has grown by 43% since the pandemic.
Today, when consumers are exposed to several lung damaging stimuli such as air pollution, smoke, etc., proactive respiratory health solutions are of the utmost importance. All these noxious stimuli when inhaled cause baseline inflammation in lungs, even in people who are not symptomatic. Any second hit such as viral infections or lung diseases in these predisposed consumers can tip them over with severe illnesses.
Recent studies have shown correlations between an imbalanced microbiome, also known as dysbiosis, and the health of various organs, including the lungs. Every breathing moment, there are non-stop conversations happening between microbes, metabolites and cells in the gut and lungs. Certain bacteria consume prebiotics, like fiber, to produce metabolites that travel through systemic circulation to affect lung health. Certain bacteria and herbals in the gut contribute to the up or down regulation of important molecules or metabolites such as small chain fatty acids, metalloproteinases, etc. in the systemic circulation. These metabolites transfer from the blood circulation or lymphatic circulation into distal organs such as lung, brain, etc. affecting the inflammation or homeostasis in those organs. There is also direct inoculation of lungs by bacteria or other content from the gut by constant micro aspirations.
NIU: How did you choose the probiotic strains and specific herbal extracts in the resB formula? How does the specific blend in the ResB formula support lung structure and function through the gut-lung axis?
VL: We initially sequenced humans with normal lungs and diseased lungs and guts to delineate specific microbial signaling which were predisposing or making them resilient from lung illnesses. Then we conducted several in vitro and in vivo experiments spanning years using human cells, animal gnotobiotic models, etc. to come up with the specific bacteria and herbal formula in res B Lung Support.
The supplement contains a mix of probiotic bacteria strains developed by ResBiotic Nutrition – Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus – plus the herbal extracts of vasaka (Adhatoda vasica root), holy basil (Ocimum sanctum leaf) and turmeric (Curcuma longa root).
Each ingredient in the formula has independently been shown to decrease inflammation and improve lung function in human cellular studies and multiple animal studies. Through our studies, we found that this specific combination with specific ratios of botanicals and probiotics were the most beneficial in reducing inflammatory markers. These findings were reported in our peer reviewed publication in Microorganisms in 2022.
NIU: What sets ResB apart from other probiotic and/or lung health products on the market?
VL: resB Lung Support is a probiotic developed using NIH-funded research and is one of the first respiratory probiotic formulation that is pre-clinically and clinically validated. Many supplements and vitamins have very little evidence supporting their claims. This is where Resbiotic is differentiating itself. As a company, our vision is to ‘scientify’ the supplement industry.
Another unique aspect is how resB Lung Support has leveraged both botanical and probiotic science in creating a unique formulation. It’s technically very challenging to do this considering the difference in molecular sizes and water activity of botanicals and probiotics. To overcome this, ResBiotic spent a considerable amount of time, not only on pre-clinical and clinical studies, but also in optimizing the formula manufacturing here in the U.S.
NIU: What does the science say, and what is most interesting about the findings to date?
VL: According to a recently published clinical trial on resB in peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Nutrition, Supplementation with resB for four weeks increased the volume asthmatic patients could exhale in a one-second forced breath. This could be due to the increased short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) and decreased neutrophilic inflammatory markers with administration of resB. However, more extensive and longer-term studies are needed to confirm the correlation. The study also determined that the supplement used was safe and well-tolerated in healthy volunteers, smokers and asthmatic patients.
SCFA levels in asthmatic patients were improved within four weeks of administering resB. Among asthmatic and smoking participants, users experienced an improvement in their overall health, coughed less frequently, felt less short of breath less often and noted fewer cough or breathing-related sleep disturbances.
Just like other high potency probiotics, resB Lung Support also has significant digestive benefits which are seen in the first few days of use. The systemic benefits such as respiratory benefits are seen in the next few weeks of use. Our clinical trial shows respiratory benefits as early as 30 days of use, and the company scientists recommend at least one-to-three months of supplementation.
NIU: Who is your target consumer? Who should be taking ResB?
VL: The target consumers fall into four categories: 1. Anyone with any chronic lung issues or illnesses, 2. Anyone exposed to polluted air due to pollution, wildfires, occupational exposures, etc., 3. Anyone who is exposed to cigarette smoke or vape or recreational marijuana and 4. Anyone who wants to optimize lung health such as athletes and active people.
NIU: What advice do you have for other startups in the dietary supplement industry?
VL: To not cut corners when it comes to pre-clinical and clinical science in launching supplement products. Even though it costs more money and effort, it is our responsibility to launch science-backed efficacious supplement products, which are developed with drug-development like rigor.