Mushroom product formulators urged to ‘patent now’

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

© manassanant pamai / Getty Images
© manassanant pamai / Getty Images

Related tags mushroom extracts mushrooms lion's mane

With mushroom supplement popularity building, experts urged product developers to ‘just start patenting’ if they want to stay in the race.

As more in-depth science emerges, so does interest in various compounds, and that will continue to drive product development and lead to a surge in new launches, Jennifer Cooper, chief scientific officer at the American public school program LPS Health Science, told the audience during a recent panel on ‘The Mushroom Revolution’ at Vitafoods Europe.

“We anticipate that the global revenue in this category will more than double by 2030,” she noted. “Now is the time to join the competitive race for intellectual property.”

Her advice to brands was to understand what those early in the game are doing and join in if they "want a chance to win."  

“See who is going after patents in the area, both on the supplement and on the drug side, and I would encourage you, if you're interested in these ingredients, to get started right away because five years from now the category is going to be twice its size," she said.

The risk of growth

The benefit in starting now is that it allows time to adapt and expand claims with additional data over time rather than "scrambling to catch up later," Cooper noted, adding that she hoped responsible brands will lead this growth by offering genuinely helpful products. However, she aired concerns that this category could be at risk of negative press.

Kenn Israel, founder and manager at Innovation Nutrition Consulting LLC, agreed, noting that the chemical complexity of mushroom components makes it a very delicate space to navigate. 

"Be humble and modest about the claims you make," he advised brands. "When some people put on their marketing hat, their goal is to become braggadocious and aggressive, and that's typically going to lead to trouble.

"This is a young category, all it takes is a couple of really nasty articles in the media for the work of hundreds of people and actually thousands of years of herbal medicine to get destroyed, so be responsible."

Thorough research needed

While the category is garnering attention, there is a lack of detailed mechanistic studies to better understand how these mushrooms work, Israel noted.

"While certainly bigger human clinical trials are important, we don't understand how these work, and clinical trials are extremely expensive—they take a long time, especially to do well," he said. "Large patient recruitment is required to really empower the studies to see if it really does make a difference in a real population."

"I am a big advocate of using mechanistic studies, we need to look at mushroom metabolites and look at nerve cells to get a much clearer idea of the mechanism of action, and then that can be used as guidance to create better quality extracts and medicines," Israel added.

A researcher’s perspective

Ellen Smith, research fellow at Northumbria University, UK, noted that while brands might be eager to make themselves known in the space, they need to put their trust in researchers to ensure reliable claims and consumer safety.

"Trust your researcher to know what we're doing and that we've got the expertise behind it, the science to design protocols that are correct and to good clinical practice standards," she said.

Smith discussed newly published research​ that investigated the effect of lion’s mane intake on cognition and stress in healthy, young adults, explaining that results showed a significant improvement in short and long-term cognition when compared to control groups. 

Yet the research remains in an early stage, with Smith hammering home the point that further research is needed to understand both the opportunities and risks in this area.

"It is crucial to acknowledge that this was a pilot trial, with a small sample size," she said. "Larger trials incorporating more cognitively demanding paradigms are therefore necessary to further investigate the potential effects of lion’s mane."

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