Functional foods are validated as Nestlé dives into food-to-pharma research

29 Sep 2010 | News
Nestlé is to develop so-called ‘functional foods’, which are designed to prevent and treat diseases including obesity and diabetes, but are not registered as pharmaceuticals.

The Swiss food giant Nestlé has announced the formation of a new and separate subsidiary, Nestlé Health Science, with an associated research and development laboratory, the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences, to develop so-called ‘functional foods’ that are designed to prevent and treat diseases including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s, but are not registered as pharmaceuticals.

The institute, which will be part of Nestlé's global R&D network will be run by Emmanuel Baetge, former Chief Scientific Officer of the US biotech company ViaCyte. Nestlé said it plans to invest “hundreds of millions” of Swiss francs over the next decade to build the Institute of Health Sciences into a world-class laboratory, conducting research in relevant areas of biomedical science and translating its findings into foods to improve health and longevity.

The Institute will be based at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, where Nestlé is already involved in two life science projects.

Announcing the move, the company said it will, “Pioneer a new industry between food and pharma.” Nestlé Health Science will become operational on 1 January 2011, and will be run at arm’s length from Nestlé's main food, beverages and nutrition activities.

The new subsidiary will incorporate the existing HealthCare Nutrition business, which had a turnover of CHF1.6 billion (€1.2 billion) in 2009.

Nestlé Health Science will have access to external scientific and technological know-how through Nestlé's innovation network and also to a number of venture capital funds in which the group has interests.

Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe said the move will help to shape the space between the food and pharma industry. “The combination of health economics, changing demographics and advances in health science show that our existing healthcare systems, which focus on treating sick people, are not sustainable and need redesigning.”

Baetge said the research carried out at the Institute will lead to, “Better understand[ing of] human diseases and ageing as influenced by genetics, metabolism and environment. Translating this knowledge will allow us to advance the concept of daily personalised health science nutrition as the most important first step in disease prevention and treatment.”

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