Babies and probiotics: Bill Gates-backed probiotic firm to embark on research in Singapore, Hong Kong

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Evivo is a B. infantis EVC001 probiotic for infants.
Evivo is a B. infantis EVC001 probiotic for infants.

Related tags Probiotics Infant Singapore Hong kong

Evolve BioSystems, the US-based microbiome firm supported by big name investors Bill Gates and Li Ka Shing, will soon embark on local research in the APAC region, namely Singapore and Hong Kong.

The company’s flagship product, Evivo – a B. infantis EVC001 ​probiotic for infants – is already available for sale in the two countries via its Evivo web store since last May.

In Singapore, the company has recently signed an agreement with the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS) to find out the prevalence of B. infantis ​in the Singapore population.

The joint collaboration, known as Singapore Infant Gut Microbiome Awareness Project (SIGMA), will study the readily available stool samples of babies across the Chinese, Malay, and Indian babies. 

The study, which is the company believes is the first of its kind in Singapore, serves to educate the general consumers on the importance of B. infantis -​ which the company believes is of a low level in today’s population.

B. infantis ​originates from the mother’s gut and babies obtain it from outside the birth canal when they are born. It is also the only bacteria capable of breaking down the Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs)​ into lactate and acetate which the babies could digest.   

“Our suspicion is that the levels will be low, we found in the US that less than 5% of the American babies have​ B. infantis,” ​Evolve BioSystems CEO Tim Brown told NutraIngredients-Asia.

He explained that the low level could be attributed to two reasons.

One is that most babies these days were born via caesarean instead of the natural birth process.

This means that the gut microbiome from the mother were not transferred to the babies during the delivery process.

Second, he pointed out that the massive use of antibiotics has not only killed bad bacteria, but also the beneficial bacteria, which has been validated by their studies where none of the mums studied have the B. infantis.

“We believe that the use of antibiotics together with c-section over the past 50 years at the level they were being used, has essentially wiped out these microbiome and so we suspect today's young Singaporean mums do not even have the bacteria to pass on to her babies”

So even if she has a vaginal delivery and breastfeeds, that baby will not have the B. infantis, that's what we found in the US.”

Elsewhere in Hong Kong, the company is working with two leading neo-natal intensive care units to study whether the use of Evivo would reduce the chances of late onset sepsis in babies warded in these units.

Next to…China

Besides Singapore and Hong Kong, Brown said the company was exploring ways to enter the China market.

He added that the company was also assessing all of the South East Asian markets.

“From a population standpoint and growing affluence and increasingly health conscious population, all of these factors are positive for entering the market.”

Modulating enteric inflammation

On the other hand, the company last year published a paper on how B. infantis ​played a role in modulating enteric inflammation in infants.

Published in Pediatric Research, ​the research analysed the faecal microbiome of the infants who took B. infantis​ and breast milk Vs those who only drank breast milk.

The findings showed that the absence of B. infantis ​is associated with increased intestinal inflammation and that early addition of the probiotic to the infants’ diet could prevent enteric inflammation.

New deal with RB

On the commercial front, the company announced a partnership with Reckitt Benckiser (RB) in the sale of Evivo last December. 

“We are very excited, as you probably know, Mead Johnson under RB, is one of the leading manufacturers of infant nutrition in the world. 

“We are very pleased to work with a company of that calibre. It is a nice way to credential the quality of our product and the depth of our science,” ​said Brown.


Source: Pediatr Res ​86, 749 – 757 (2019)

Colonization by B. infantis EVC001 modulates enteric inflammation in exclusively breastfed infants

Authors: Henrick, B.M., Chew, S., Casaburi, G. et al.

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