New members with a focus on research – Baxter and BioGaia join R&D group

When SwedenBIO's working groups for Research and Development and Public Affairs met for the first time since the summer break, it was with a partly physical, partly digital meeting, based in Lund and Stockholm. In Lund, new members Baxter and BioGaia, who have just joined the R&D working group, participated.

Kristine Koppelhus is Scientific Affairs Manager at BioGaia – a global company with a strong research network worldwide, both in pre-clinical and clinical settings. BioGaia wants to help spread knowledge about probiotics and offer clinically tested and consumer-friendly probiotic products.

– Our hope is to gain insight into how other companies work with medical research and how regulatory challenges are handled. We also want to actively participate in various working groups to help develop measures, influence health policy and create better regulatory conditions for probiotic products,” says Kristine Koppelhus, Scientific Affairs Manager at Biogaia.

Research in the microbiome field is increasing, and a greater focus on prevention means that the challenges of proving the effectiveness of preventive measures become important to address. According to Kristine Koppelhus, biomarkers and diagnostics are key areas for the future.

This fall, the government will present a research policy proposal. What is important to you in it?

– Today, we conduct research in many areas and have a large international research network. We have some ongoing research in Sweden and we would like to see the development of probiotics research at Swedish university hospitals and clinics.

SwedenBIO’s input to the bill
was already made a year ago and the working groups have since worked on the 7 areas that were identified.

– “The seven proposals are very good, so we have high hopes that they will be heard,” says Kristine, pointing out some of the shortcomings and development opportunities that exist, not least in terms of cooperation.

The first proposal is to make research infrastructure accessible. Why is it important to you?

– This feels very important to stimulate cooperation between academia and business. The research and research infrastructures built in Sweden must benefit our industry in the form of industry-relevant projects. We believe that professional collaboration between industry and research is central to the continued positive development of microbiome research. It is important to create the right conditions and balance between different actors here. A good example is NextBioForm where BioGaia participates – a Vinnova-funded competence platform.
In proposal number two, the industry calls for a program of exploratory collaborative research in life sciences. What do you think about it?

– Great idea if it can be done on a larger scale. Industrial doctoral students, industrial post-docs are a great way to collaborate! It is also important to be able to find common issues between different competing companies and find the balance between different actors.

You aim to influence legislation to make it more responsive to probiotic products with proven health benefits. Tell us more!

-We are seeing a growing interest in probiotics among consumers and doctors are increasingly recommending probiotics to their patients. Despite this, knowledge is generally low and the need for training is therefore high. In addition, the legislation has not had time to adapt to the evidence on the positive effects of probiotics that exists today, making it even more difficult for consumers to make informed choices. Today, probiotics are mostly classified as dietary supplements and with current legislation, consumers have no access to information on either the efficacy or safety of different probiotic products.

What are your expectations from being a member of SwedenBIO?

– We hope to contribute with ideas on the importance of prevention and how non-drugs can prevent diseases and contribute positively to reducing existing health problems. The potential of socio-economic benefits is also something we want to highlight. It is important for us to clarify that you do not have to be a pharmaceutical company to invest in serious medical research. Working with other stakeholders to improve the regulatory environment for preventive and beneficial health products, both nationally and at European and international level, is also important.

– We hope that cooperation in the field of life sciences can help us to create a better understanding and cooperation between research, legislation and policy.

About microbiome research

Microbiome research is exploding and the potential benefits for individuals and society are enormous. Preventing disease and maintaining good health are key factors in addressing the healthcare challenges facing society. The world’s population is growing and ageing. More elderly people will put pressure on health services and an increased need for incentives to prevent them. There is a growing need for measures and health policies that address welfare diseases, and also contribute to behavioral change at the individual level. Global developments present both challenges and opportunities for businesses and their ability to contribute to society. A greater focus on prevention means that the challenges of proving the effectiveness of preventive measures become important to address. Biomarkers and diagnostics are key areas for the future.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antibiotic resistance continues to rise, posing a major threat to the ability to effectively treat common infectious diseases. One way to reduce this risk is to limit their use in viral infections such as colds and flu, where antibiotics are not useful anyway. Another way is to work preventively. Studies indicate that preventive treatment with probiotics can strengthen the immune system and reduce the need for antibiotics in children (King S et al. 2018).

Source: BioGaia