Imperial College London and Nestlé Research are establishing a research and innovation partnership exploring metabolic health and nutrition.
The collaboration will focus on nutritional science, and will initially aim to gain a greater understanding of the billions of bacteria in our gut, called the microbiome. A growing body of evidence suggests these microorganisms play a pivotal role in the way our bodies respond to food and nutrients. The collaboration aims to produce insights into a range of issues such as how the microbiome influences our physical and mental health.
It will investigate how the brain and the gut communicate with each other, via the so-called gut-brain axis. The microbiome is thought to play a crucial role in this communication.
A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the partners, who have agreed to jointly engage in pre-clinical and clinical studies. Nestlé will look to invest approximately 10 million Swiss Francs over five years.
The collaboration hopes to enable both partners to find translatable answers to some of the fundamental questions in nutrition such as:
- To what degree does the gut microbiome play a role in the digestion of fermentable dietary fibers?
- Do metabolites generated by the gut microbiome have an effect on metabolism and health?
- Do specific metabolites impart different brain states and have an impact on centrally regulated phenomena, such as mood and emotion?
Professor Stefan Catsicas, Nestlé's Chief Technology Officer, said: “This strategic innovation partnership with Imperial College, an Institution at the forefront of transdisciplinary, health and nutritional research, is a great fit for Nestlé. Our model of research collaboration is to work within a matrix of Academia, Government and Industry; all with a common objective to improve people’s quality of life.”
Professor Alice Gast, President of Imperial College London, said: “Collaborations with outstanding partners like Nestlé help Imperial to achieve enduring excellence in research and education for the benefit of society. We will work together to address pressing societal challenges like diabetes and obesity. Our collaboration with Nestlé is enhanced by Imperial’s strong academic foundations in the fundamental science of metabolic health and nutrition and our strengths in multidisciplinary research. I am excited by what we can achieve together.” Professor Jeremy Nicholson, Chair in Biological Chemistry at Imperial, has led several collaborations with Nestle Research, providing new insights into the effect of bacteria in the gut on diabetes and obesity.
He explained: “Over a period of more than a decade Imperial and Nestle scientists have worked together to create a new paradigm for human nutrition. Microbiome research is now recognised as of global importance in human health at the personal and public healthcare level - thus has impacts that extend well beyond the nutritional sphere.”
The research partnership will produce insights into how we can tackle some of society’s greatest health challenges, said Professor Gary Frost, Chair in Dietetics and Nutrition at Imperial. “Diet and nutrition underpin many of the current issues our world faces – from rising obesity and diabetes levels, to how to maintain our mental and physical health into old age. This collaboration will enable Imperial to carry out world-leading nutrition research that may help address some of these crucial issues.”