Case NutriLeads

Improving human health with natural ingredients

Meet Nutrileads – one of today’s leading innovative companies to have recently received the prestigious SME Phase 2 Award. Although winning such a grant can feel “like winning the lottery”, the success of Nutrileads is much more than luck. To learn more about their inspiring story we interviewed Erik Dam, the Chief Business Office of Nutrileads since 2014.

Interview with Erik Dam, CBO of Nutrileads

Founded in 2012 by Ruud Albers, Nutrileads is a Health Ingredients company headquartered in Wageningen, The Netherlands. Its mission is to identify, develop and license out crop-derived, sustainable food ingredients with clinically proven health benefits for specific patient and consumer groups. Their currently most developed ingredient is Xtramune, which aims to improve resistance to respiratory infections.

Since its foundation, Nutrileads has received several investment rounds as well as non-dilutive funding from several Dutch national and European grants, including Eurostars and a prestigious SME Instrument Phase 2 grant.

Q: Let’s start at the beginning, how did the inspiration for Nutrileads originate?

Erik (E): The idea started while Ruud was working at Unilever. In 2009, Ruud and his team discovered the ingredient IMPP-1 as part of a study to identify novel immunomodulatory nutrients. Unilever did not want to pursue the research while Ruud saw the potential of this ingredient to improve resistance to respiratory infections, so he  founded Nutrileads and purchased all rights to IMPP-1 – now also known as Xtramune.

At Nutrileads we want to develop ingredients that have proven health benefits and that will not compromise on taste or convenience. This allows us to reduce risk of disease rather than cure it, which is the key to really lower the cost of healthcare burden from the beginning.

Q: As you must have experienced, funding coming in at the right time and with the right fit can really make our ideas into reality. Can you tell us about how some key grants have shaped your early development?

E: The grants have allowed us to have more time to do research, to do it better and with a larger team. This of course improves the results.

The first grant we won was the Dutch FND grant from the TopSector AgriFood in 2013. This grant really helped us because we could continue to optimize the production process of IMPP-1 and conduct further pre-clinical tests on its effectiveness. Not only that, the results of these activities were key to attract investors, which allowed us to continue to grow further.

Q: Ah yes, and to support this growth, in 2016 we supported you in applying and you received a Eurostars grant. How were you able to develop IMPP-1 further after winning this grant?

E: We did this project with an interdisciplinary consortium, with 4 partners from the Netherlands, Germany and Finland. We used this unique opportunity to optimize the production process of IMPP-1 and some characteristics of the ingredient, as well as to continue preclinical studies and determine things like optimal source, dosing and mode of action, to improve our IP position. We will use this grant as well to perform analysis on human samples from trials with our ingredient.

Q: It seems like this Eurostars project set you well underway towards establishing the clinical benefits of healthy food ingredients. Now, the forward momentum continues with your progress this year. In January you were able to secure a prized SME Instrument Phase 2 grant, awarded to leading innovative companies in the EU. How did it feel when you first learned you have won the grant?

E: SME Instrument is the big prize for start-up companies such as ours. It felt like we won the lottery because it’s such a prestigious grant! When you win an SME Instrument phase 2, then you are showing potential investors and clients that you have really solid product development and a viable business model.

Q: Besides attracting potential investors and clients, how will this grant impact the development of Nutrileads?

E: With this grant we will focus on further research on Xtramune. We will do clinical trials to additionally validate the effects in the immune system and to deeper understand the mode of action. We will also use the grant to help us scale-up the production process and build the dossier needed to get approval from the authorities for the health claim. All these activities form a solid basis for future commercial partnerships concerning Xtramune with global ingredient suppliers and food companies.

Q: Given our role in your exciting journey so far, what would you say to other companies regarding our consultancy?

E: We have a nice relationship with Catalyze since the start of our journey. It is very nice to have this relationship because we can sit together periodically and talk about our options for the future. Catalyze advises us on what we can do depending on our goals for the future.

I would not imagine how we could have done all of these grant applications by ourselves, especially the SME Instrument Phase 2. Doing it ourselves would have taken too much effort by our team, which is not the best allocation of our time when we want to focus on the research and development of our product.

So, yes, I absolutely recommend it to other companies. For ourselves, we found the commercial models to be well tailored to our needs and enabled our partnership in the strategic funding landscape.

Awarded grant: SME Instrument Phase 2 (2.5 M€)

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