Functional foods designed to support digestive health by blocking the proliferation of bad bacteria are a step closer after Switzerland's Lonza agreed to a global deal to develop, produce and commercialize products containing a new strain of probiotic bacteria developed by Germany-based Organobalance.
The strain in question is called Lactobacillus anti-H. pylori because of the way in which it removes Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria believed to cause ulcers, from the body.
Tests have shown that this patent-protected strain, which is produced by fermentation, binds to the H. pylori, creating larger "aggregates" of the bacteria, which are then flushed from the stomach by the body and excreted. Scientists estimate that as much as 50 percent of the population carries H. pylori bacteria in their gut.
Communicating these test results to consumers in the United States could be difficult to do legally, however; in the view of the Food and Drug Administration, preventing stomach ulcers is something only an approved drug can claim to do. A bill introduced in the U.S. House by Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Jared Polis (D-CO) called the Free Speech About Science Act could allow a manufacturer to make a claim like Lonza's on a supplement label providing there is research to back it up, but the measure is unlikely to pass.
The agreement between the two companies marks Lonza's first foray into the probiotics arena. Roman Quinter, the company's senior vice president and head of nutrition ingredients business, said: "This agreement with Organobalance creates a basis for Lonza to enter the probiotic market – a market with vast growth potential – with a unique ingredient.
"Integrating the Lactobacillus anti-H. pylori strain into our nutrition ingredient portfolio provides an opportunity to leverage our strong biotech expertise and knowledge to provide a highly effective product to the nutrition landscape."
Christine Lang, CEO of Organobalance, added: "As the leader in the development of innovative probiotic strains, we regard this agreement with Lonza as a further recognition of Organobalance’s strategy, our expertise, and our innovative capacity. We highly appreciate Lonza’s dedication to lead our development into great success on the nutrition marketplace."
There is growing interest in the use of probiotics that interact with H. pylori. Functional Ingredients recently reported that scientists in Spain had identified a strain of bacteria which they believed might be better than antibiotics at treating stomach ulcers caused by infection with H. pylori.