During the Biovision Forum 2013, you chaired the session on the Gut Microbiota and moderated a round table on the subject. What are the main messages coming out of this event?
FL: I think it was an excellent initiative that the Biovision Forum got interested in the microbiota and that the topic was in the spotlight. The forum has an objective to stimulate discussion between politics, academics, industrials and the general public.
The round table brought together high academic profiles (Dr Nathalie Delzenne from the University of Louvain, Dr Dirk Haller from the Technical University Munich, Dr Dusko Ehrlich from INRA). They each delivered their speech to promote their vision on application perspectives and insisted on the need to continue funding fundamental research in order to surpass correlations. Without this effort, there is no possibility to understand what communities are linked to what physiological trait or impact. They also underlined the importance of international consortia to deal with those fundamental questions in humans. To serve this perspective, current system studies and big cohorts of patients trials have to be completed with cross studies and longitudinal studies. Those enable us to understand the impact of a gut microbiota dysbiosis in the long term.
Representatives of the industry (Françoise Le Vacon from Biofortis Research and Manfred Eggersdorfer from DSM) explained how they were becoming aware of possible applications for their products. Their primary approach focuses on the taste, but they clearly understand how current research on the gut microbiota could have significant impact in terms of product benefits for human health. There is an obvious interest for food industrials on microbiota and health. For instance in the Lyon area we have the IRT Bioaster (www.bioaster.com). It is a public (CNRS, CEA and INSERM) and private (Danone, Sanofi and Mérieux) partnership funded by the investissement d’avenir from the French gouvernment, in which the therapeutic use of microbial products and using the gut microbiota as a diagnosis tools are major axis tackled. It is a good sign. There is a clear effort made by the industrials.
The Biovision Forum helped put forward how gut microbiota research is an exciting scientific adventure. Every week we see major advances in scientific journals. Though we know very little about the system, we already have hints about possible applications based on this partial knowledge. Applications for the patients are actually at hand. In conclusion the discussion mostly underlined the need for evidence-based approach and for strengthening academic/industrial partnerships.