BIOGAIA – THE INNOVATION THAT IS THE STOMACH’S BEST FRIEND
BioGaia is one of the three most successful innovations originating from the research carried out over SLU's 40 years of existence. Prior to the founding of BioGaia in 1990, there was intensive research into the lactic-acid bacterium Lactobacillus reuteri during the 80s, including at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala. Sven Lindgren, the PhD student Lars Axelsson and Walter Dobrogosz worked there, investigating how Lactobacillus reuteri could inhibit pathogenic microorganisms such as E. coli and Salmonella. The company BioGaia, which is based on their research, currently has an annual turnover in excess of SEK 500m.
The research resulted in a patented bacterium, and one of the original ideas was to extend the shelf life of organic vegetables. The company very soon realised that L. reuteri had a much bigger area of application than just preserving vegetables. After several different attempts to find areas of application, including as an alternative to antibiotics in animal feed, which worked well technically but not commercially, the company found its business in the field of probiotic products that fight ‘evil’ microorganisms and promote human health in three indication areas: 1) the gastrointestinal tract, 2) oral health and 3) immunological defence.
The products contribute to less antibiotic use and decreased absence through sickness
BioGaia is a Swedish health company and currently a world leader in the field of probiotics, with over 25 years’ experience in developing, marketing and selling probiotic products. Through its research the company has enabled the use of the Reuteri bacterium and has succeeded in developing probiotic products that are delivered in various types of packaging, making it more accessible than was previously possible. Within the areas of indication being focused on, probiotic products have been successfully developed for alleviation/cure of diarrhoea, infantile colic, caries and gingivitis. The immunological defence system is also affected, and clinical studies have shown resultant decreased absence through sickness and reduced use of antibiotics.
Most of the company's turnover is based on research from SLU
BioGaia is currently listed on OMX Nasdaq, and has its head office in Stockholm and production/development departments in Lund. The company also has offices in Japan. Production takes place at six factories in Europe and the USA (largely contract manufacture), with distribution to 90 or so countries through about 60 partners worldwide. Despite 25 years of business, most of BioGaia’s turnover (SEK 540m) is based on the innovation that Sven Lindgren, Lars Axelsson and Walter Dobrogosz developed through their research at SLU. BioGaia is still working in close collaboration with the Department of Molecular Sciences at SLU, namely with the researchers Hans Jonsson, Stefan Roos and Sebastian Håkansson.
Before SLU Holding existed...
Help was sorely needed when the patent application was lodged for BioGaia at the end of the 80s, but little support was available then. BioGaia was one of few exceptions that nevertheless succeeded at that time. In 1989 the patent was approved, and after that the company was able to develop procedures for applying for patents and funding so as to take the next step.
"One experience I gained during this period is that as a scientist you have to learn to pass good ideas on to real entrepreneurs. We nearly always lack the requisite skills. We would never have got anywhere near what Jan Annwall and Peter Rothschild (the entrepreneurs who participated in the formation of BioGaia) have accomplished after twenty years with BioGaia and Reuteri if we had continued on our own,” Sven Lindgren concludes." *)
*) Parts of the material and the quote have been taken from ‘A magazine from BioGaia about the past year and Annual Report 2008’.