This year's Probiota Europe event took place virtually and brought together global experts from industry and academia to discuss the present and the future of microbiome modulation through -biotics for consumer health. Lux presented at the event and participated in a panel discussion about the future of probiotics. Spread over three days, the summit covered a number of key topics, from regulations to newer application areas. Based on the presentations and discussions, we highlight four key takeaways from Probiota Europe 2021.
Applications of probiotics beyond gut health management in functional food & beverages are gaining attention
While probiotics are most often associated with gut health management, the industry is witnessing momentum toward exploring the use of probiotics in functional foods for a number of other applications, including mood modulation, weight management, and skin health. International Flavors & Fragrances' (IFF) senior scientist presented clinical trial data on the company's recently launched product HOWARU Calm, targeting mood modulation through the gut-brain axis to promote overall mental well-being. The product contains 17 billion CFU of Lacticaseibacillus paracasei Lpc-37 and can be used as a dietary supplement as well as a functional food and beverage ingredient. Likewise, Dr. Daniel Ramon Vidal from ADM Biopolis presented data on a novel probiotic based on Bifidobacterium lactis BPL1, targeting metabolic health and weight management. ADM Biopolis has specifically come up with a heat-treated postbiotic formulation to enable effective incorporation in a number of functional food applications, including baked goods, snacks, and beverages.
Novel strains and formulation innovation are coming to the fore
A senior research officer from Ireland's Teagasc Food Research Centre discussed the potential of novel strains of Staphylococcus hominis with antimicrobial properties as useful skin probiotics. Likewise, recent research has shown the potential of Akkermansia muciniphila strains to act as effective probiotic interventions in lifestyle diseases like prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Belgian startup S-Biomedic spoke about the use of Propionibacterium acnes as a live biotherapeutic product (LBP) for topical application targeting acne vulgaris. One major challenge that the company discussed is the stable incorporation of LBPs in cosmetic applications. S-Biomedic and other companies in the space are turning to formulation innovation through encapsulation to enable shelf-life stability. Given the growing potential of topical probiotics, encapsulation technologies, including microencapsulation, will stay in focus.
Real-time microbiome monitoring research is getting serious
Most microbiome analyses used for consumer health personalization are still largely based on one data point obtained from stool samples. Given the gut microbiome's dynamic nature, a single time point is not an accurate reflection of an individual's gut health. While a handful of startups, including Atmo Biosciences, are working to bridge this gap, a researcher from Queen Mary University of London brought up a valid point about the need for additional academic research on next-generation microbiome monitoring. To this end, the use of smart capsules to get a more accurate snapshot of the gut microbiome is gaining attention. Recent research initiatives include the application of bioluminescent imaging to assess prebiotic and probiotic efficacy via a capsule that measures enzyme activity, with potential applications in personalized -biotics. Emerging startup and UCL spinoff Enteromics addresses consumer-related challenges associated with implementing ingestible capsules by pairing microbiome monitoring data with smartphones through a digital application. The company targets the management of chronic conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Personalized supplements offer new ways for industry players to engage
Lux presented on personalized supplements, including probiotics, and the intersection of personalization and D2C channels gaining momentum in 2020. Nestlé entered the space through the acquisition of Persona, which recently launched a new probiotic to promote skin health. The strengthening microbiome-related scientific evidence of outcomes and mode of action and consumers' health demands will continue to drive the momentum for personalized -biotics offerings. However, cost and convenience are current drivers in the personalized supplements space. Developers like Sun Genomics are looking to incorporate microbiome analysis for personalized probiotics, but solutions are still in early commercial stages.
Probiota Europe provided key insights into the future direction of probiotic applications. With increasing interest around probiotics discovery, expect to see "omics" technologies play a crucial role in novel probiotics screening as well as a concomitant rise in system biology-based approaches for the identification of probiotic strains with new functionalities. Those in the food and beverage industry should look to partner with upstream functional ingredient providers with scientifically backed claims for their -biotics and associated health impacts. As microbiome modulation products targeting consumer health incorporate more novel strategies, including synbiotics, postbiotics, and psychobiotics, effective communication with consumers will be an important requirement for larger players as well as emerging B2C startups to succeed in this space.