News - October 4, 2018

An extra five million to develop 'slimming bacterium'

Tessa Louwerens

A-mansia, a joint startup by WUR and the University of Louvain, has won another five million euros on top of starting capital of 13 million. One of the company’s aims with this funding is to speed up the development of nutritional supplements to counteract overweight.

Willem de Vos © Bram Belloni

For this purpose the company makes use of the bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila, which was more or less accidentally discovered in 2004 by professor of Microbiology Willem de Vos. De Vos and Belgian professor Patrice Cani set up the company A-mansia in 2016, and within a year they had acquired the necessary starting capital of 13 million euros. And now they are getting another five million from the investment fund Innovation Industries.

Prescribing Akkermansia muciniphila helps combat overweight and probably other diseases such as fatty liver disease and bowel infections. ‘But you shouldn’t treat it as a solution to an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise,’ says De Vos. ‘By prescribing the bacteria you shift the tipping point a little and the patient doesn’t become overweight as quickly.’

The advantage of this bacterium is that it works in its pasteurized form too, which makes it safe to add to food products. There are still a lot of uncertainties surrounding the creation of actual products, though. No one knows precisely, for example, how useful the bacterium is for someone with a particular medical condition. ‘In the next few years we are also going to look at possible applications in medicines,’ says De Vos.

Most of the further research will be done in the Brussels area, where A-Mansia’s office is located, but some of it will be done in Wageningen too.