Hørsholm, Denmark-based Chr. Hansen announced that it will collaborate with Dutch research consortium, TI Food and Nutrition, in an effort to improve the understanding of the role of probiotics in the gut. The four year alliance will begin work in January on five specifically goaled projects.
Founded in 1997, TI Food and Nutrition of Holland is a network of universities, international food and nutrition companies and private research organizations. Benedicte Flambard who is the head of research and development for Chr. Hansen’s Health & Nutrition Division, expressed her excitement about the new partnership and remarked that the companies’ work will be conducted with an eye toward the future of probiotics. “TI Food and Nutrition is a recognized research leader with internationally renowned scientific experts in its network,” she said, and noted that the consortium amassed 38 published patents by Jan. 2009; submits an average of 10-20 patent applications per year; and is published in peer reviewed publications between 90-120 per year.
“The partnership will not enable us to offer new, scientifically documented probiotic solutions right away,” she added. “Rather, we expect this initiative to bring the fundamental, pre-competitive probiotic research to the next level, bridging it with current challenges in the food, nutrition and pharmaceutical industries.”
In an October interview with FoodNavigator.com, Jan Maat, managing director of TI Food and Nutrition espoused the benefits of collaborative, pre-competitive research—a "middle ground" research method that differs from conventional university-based, publically-funded studies and industrial R&D-driven research—and noted that it is a great cost-effective benefit in a time when the “innovation process for companies is shortening.”
“Picking up the fundamental research is a big undertaking. The complexity of what it involves is high, but by combining efforts in the longer term, and sharing the effort and risk, the industry can benefit,” he said. “We sit companies with the same areas of interest together and ask them, what are the main questions you have? Then we work on the project brief, and try to develop the ‘how’ to find the answers to their ‘wants’.”
Together, Chr. Hansen and TI Food and Nutrition will tackle five fine-tuned research projects related to improving the understanding of the role of probiotics in the gut. The projects will span biomarkers validation, immune barriers, microbiota and metabolism, microbiota and energy balance, and the role of pro- and prebiotics on intestinal tissue.
“The gut is the central organ for a probiotic to exert its primary effect, which will drive secondary effects on other organs of the human body,” Ms. Flambard explained. “Therefore this alliance will deliver a basic understanding on mode of action of probiotic in the gut. In other words, how a probiotic impacts the physiology of the gut to deliver its benefit to the human. That knowledge will be the base for Chr. Hansen to constantly improve our products and concepts in the marketplace.”
As an industrial sponsor Chr. Hansen will obtain rights to any intellectual property resulting from the partnership program. What’s more, the alliance permits for the immediate industrial implementation of results or technologies that are developed in the collaboration.
From TI Food and Nutrition’s vantage point, Chr. Hansen is one of five new industry partners in the consortium’s research program for the next four years. “We are committed to a structured approach to pre-competitive applied research of strategic importance to our industry partners,” commented Jan Maat, managing director of TI Food and Nutrition. “Our 2011-2014 program enables our partners to select and invest in the research that offers them the greatest innovation potential in line with their business development strategies and R&D capabilities.”
In addition to Chr. Hansen, TI Food and Nutrition’s other partners include Nestlé, Kellogg, Danone, and Fromageries Bel. Other companies such as Unilever, Friesland Campina, VION, DSM and CSM are currently active partners with TI Food and Nutrition and in the midst of other research projects.