ProBioEtna: Pioneering probiotics for women's health

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages - Female Scientist / FreshSplash
GettyImages - Female Scientist / FreshSplash

Related tags Probiotics microbiome Probiotic Vaginal Health vaginal microbiome

ProBioEtna, founded in 2021, is “bridging the gap between research and business” through the creation of probiotic strains for women's health.

The startup, born as a spinoff from the University of Catania, Italy​, focuses on calibrated probiotic strains tailored for specific target populations, supported by validated dossiers from extensive preclinical and clinical studies, and designed for scalability at an industrial level.

Operating with a B2B business model, the company specialises in the nutraceutical and probiotic sectors and has now been selected by the NutraIngredients Editorial team as a ‘Probiota Pioneer’, to present their project on stage at the much anticipated Probiota event in Milan in February 2024​. 

A mission

The core mission of ProBioEtna is to develop probiotics with a special focus on women's health, with the backing of a multidisciplinary team of experts, composed of microbiologists, gynaecologists, and technologists.

The inspiration behind ProBioEtna lies in the team's dream of bridging the gap between research and companies, Prof. Cinzia Lucia Randazzo, president, and founding member of ProBioEtna explains:

“We have more than 20 years of experience working on probiotics strength as microbiologists. 

“And now we want to create this kind of bridge between the research and companies, and with our experience and know-how we’ve been able to create this spin-off.” 

The journey

The journey began at laboratory scale, where ProBioEtna tapped into a vast microbial platform, explains Randazzo: 

“We isolated several strains from the vagina, and then we characterised the microbiota, to understand the data, which was a mix of different aerobic and anaerobic pathogens. 

“We then started thinking about how to develop a probiotic strain that can inhibit the pathogen, and we formulated a really promising strain​, Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus CA15, which is now patented. 

“The strain was isolated from a healthy volunteer and we characterised it both in vitro and in vivo, and have now already performed 2 clinical studies on it.

“The strain has demonstrated great effectiveness, in restoring the normal vaginal microbiota, which was a really good result as up until now there have been no available strains on the market that are able to do this.”

Based on an established process, strains undergo rigorous characterisation and in vitro testing thus, promising candidates advance to preclinical studies and clinical-level investigations.

Based on market demands and ProBioEtna's collaboration with Sacco System, the selected probiotic strains are developed and produced at industrial scale.

Challenges 

While a promising and innovative area, the probiotic industry is not one without its challenges, Randazzo explains: “A lot of medical doctors just want to give patients antibiotics, and I think a lot of people still don’t believe in a probiotic treatment plan. 

“We have to try and transfer the scientific evidence about the ability of probiotics. 

“We believe in this as a possibility, and we need to champion the reduction of antibiotics administration due to increasing antibiotic resistance related to the overuse of antibiotics, and then encourage the use of probiotics as an alternative.”

And on top of that, education is needed that not all probiotics are created equal, Randazzo continues:

“Medical doctors talk about the microbiota, but they are not microbiologists. So while they may talk about probiotics, particularly in Italy, there is not enough regulation on the standard of probiotic.

“It’s important to demonstrate clearly the difference between one probiotic or another because we believe that the use of probiotics should be personalised, as all probiotics, and women, are not the same.” 

Looking forward ​ 

As Randazzo notes, there is a lot of area for expansion within this sector: “Going forward, we would like to develop another blend in combination with CA15 because it's for us is the gold strain, looking at other target populations like menopause or infertility, and other aspects of women’s health.” 

She adds that the Probiota event to be held early next year will offer an invaluable platform to communicate broadly about the work ProBioEtna is doing and the possibility of where it can continue to go. 

Tickets for Probiota, to be held from 7th-9th February, can be found here​.

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