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Launch of the UK Microbiome Special Interest Group

Over 50 delegates gathered at The Royal Institution, Mayfair for the launch of the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), UK Microbiome Special Interest Group. With the aim to create a self-sustainable and proactive microbiome community here in the UK.

Pre 2000, there was very little knowledge or understanding regarding the microbiome. Fast forward 20 years, £1.5 billion has been investment into microbiome research and a special interest group can now be officially established to carry on unravelling the wonderful world of the microbiome.

The scope of the SIG aims to cover all microbiomes, especially those connected to human health and wellbeing, animal health and nutrition and agri-food. Furthermore, the SIG outlines that it will also cover human, plant, animal and agri-tech.

“The world is going to starve (in 30-50 years) as we are running out of food – the agritech microbiome area is in the most need and is more significant but isn’t always seen as the most popular in the first instance.” James McIlroy – Enterobiotix

Chair of the SIG Andrew Morgan of DuPoint also hosted the event. Andrew was a former chair for the KTN biosciences initiative. Having worked at DuPoint for over 25 years, Andrew has seen the emergence of the microbiome as not only a trend but also a credible main stay in innovation. This spans across the food, pharma, agri-tech, skin care, animal and soil science industries.

A presentation was given by Professor Denise Kelly. Denise previously worked at Aberdeen University for over 20 years within the microbiology and life sciences department. She is now an investment advisor for Seventure Partners. Her presentation was very positive regarding the growth in the industry.

“2020 is going to see huge growth and understanding in the microbiome and its applications” Denise Kelly – Seventure Partners

Mike Hoptroff from Unilever also gave an insightful presentation, concentrating on the microbiome in all areas of wellbeing and personal care. Mike has specialised in haircare and anti-dandruff shampoo and the balance of microbiome to support the product and the individual.

Later in the launch, a panel discussion took place. It was obvious that the panel thought that this was potentially the biggest game changer in the consumer and industrial sector. It was also identified that more start-up businesses are wanted, along with more places and people to be involved in clinical trials.

The benefits of the microbiome SIG are predicted to be huge in the food, pharma and nutritional and nutraceutical industry to treat and manage:

· Gut-bran axis and gut-liver axis

· Disease risk – metabolic

· Neurological conditions

The panel did identify possible challenges that they may be faced with. Some of the challenges will include:

· Understanding the credible associations of the microbiome and intervention

· Overcome the hurdles to get a successful product

· Certification

The opportunities of microbiome for the UK outweigh the challenges, as opportunities include:

· Microbiome research

· Microbiome therapeutic properties

· Bridging agri-tech and the microbiome

· Highlighting the need for collaboration – insight – capability

Some UK universities have already started to engage with microbiome research, including the University of York researching pathways to identify the microbes responsible for wellbeing. Furthermore, the University of Glasgow, Liverpool and Birmingham all have research areas dedicated to the microbiome.

What would success look like for the SIG?

Research, research and more research! The panel agreed that over the next three years sharing knowledge is key. The UK is a hotbed and centre of clinical trials, but more engagement is needed to discover the therapeutic potential of the microbiome. The research undertaken by pre and probiotics have paved the way for a great future for microbiome.

If this subject is of interest to you and you would like to get involved with the conversation, get in touch!

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