Startup developing next-gen psychobiotics takes centre stage at Probiota

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

getty | kirstypargeter
getty | kirstypargeter

Related tags Probiota Probiotics psychobiotics gut-brain axis microbiome Gut health

Entrepreneurs developing next-gen CRISPR-engineered microbiome therapeutics for cognitive health will present their business to gut health experts at NI's Probiota event next month (Feb 6-8).

Joining the "Probiota Pioneers" panel on day three of the event, Lithuanian startup 'Integral Solutions' will showcase how they create long-term solutions to tackle the global mental health crisis.

The scientists are developing novel CRISPR engineering methods to create genome-edited probiotic bacteria strains with increased therapeutic effects on the nervous, neuroendocrine and immune systems as well as enhanced metabolic processes.

Co-founder and chief executive officer Anna Chwalibóg, became fascinated by the gut-brain axis while working as a clinical dietitian. Whilst she had been considering how she could utilise this knowledge to help clients via her clinical practice, it was her co-founder Sarunas Baciliunas who pushed for them to create their own psychobiotic products to provide long-term solutions to rival drugs on the market.

“Our goal is to create a company that will have a holistic approach to human health with a focus on mental health," ​Chwalibóg told NutraIngredients in advance of her on-stage appearance at Probiota. "Not like anti-depressants which often work on specific symptoms but have anti-microbial properties on the microbiome – we want to create products with a positive impact on the whole of the body." 

"...We are developing next-generation psychobiotics - genetically modified strains using CRISPR to enhance the natural properties of the psychobioactive bacterial strains to give them better health effects on the brain.”

The entrepreneurs have some specific target markets in mind, with daily stress in the workplace being a big focus, but they are keeping the exact targets under-wraps for the time being.

They have been travelling the world attending trade shows and conferences to ensure they have their finger on the pulse in terms of the latest science and where the opportunities lie. They’ve realised there’s a huge gap in the market for these solutions in their home region, with the market being better established and better catered-for in the US and Asia.

They are currently establishing partnerships with several Taiwanese probiotics companies as well as research institutions across Europe to design joint psychobiotic products with the plan to launch genome-edited probiotics for mental and cognitive health in the USA in 2024.

While in the process of developing the CRISPR engineered products, in an aim to establish themselves as psychobiotic industry leaders in the CEE region, they launched their first commercially available psychobiotic in the Lithuanian and Polish markets in December 2022 under the Integral Biotics brand, named 'EasyMind', and they plan to launch more similar products in the coming months.

“We want to concentrate our efforts on becoming a leader in the psychobiotic industry in the Baltic countries and central Europe and then we want to expand across the globe,”​ adds Chwalibóg.

The product is licensed from Spanish partners AB-Biotics` MindBiome+ formula and is designed to improve cognitive functions under stressful conditions. They are offering this product both in the B2C and B2B markets.

This was the first psychobiotic product on the Lithuanian market, according to Chwalibóg.

“In Poland and Lithuania we are speaking to consumers via our website, social media, press articles, radio interviews and more. Last week we were covered in the biggest news platform in the Baltic states, talking about this new product.

“People are getting to know us and are really excited and are not sceptical- they want to buy the product as fast as possible as they really believe in its potential.”

As well as making the product available online, they have also launched in some health food stores and have established a collaboration with a gut health focused medical centre which carries out microbiome testing. This will see patients recommended the product by health experts.

A decade of CRISPR gene editing

CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is the term used for technology which targets specific stretches of genetic code and edits DNA at precise locations.

In the decade since the publication of CRISPR-Cas9 as a genome-editing technology, the CRISPR toolbox and its applications have profoundly changed basic and applied biological research. 

Since its inception, within genomic medicine, it has become feasible to obtain a complete sequence of the human genome in less than 24 hours— something which previously took years to generate. What's more, designing a potent CRISPR genome editor to obtain clinically actionable information from that genome now takes only a matter of days.

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