From genomics to functional foods: India’s Avesthagen launches sugar and calorie management gummies

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Teestar comprises 70 per cent of galactomannan as the bioactive for managing weight and blood sugar levels. It currently come in two flavours, namely tamarind and litchi. © Avesthagen
Teestar comprises 70 per cent of galactomannan as the bioactive for managing weight and blood sugar levels. It currently come in two flavours, namely tamarind and litchi. © Avesthagen

Related tags genomics Functional food

Indian biotech firm Avesthagen has launched its first preventive health product – a blood sugar and calorie management gummy.

The Bangalore-based firm showcased its product marketed as Teestar at the booth of white label manufacturing firm Genomelabs during Vitafoods India. 

Set up by genomic researcher Dr. Villoo Morawala-Patell in 1998 and officially registered in 2001, Avesthagen made a name for itself in genomics research, most notably, the Avestagenome Project which aims to understand the molecular basis of longevity in the Zoroastrian-Parsi population – a community which Dr. Morawala-Patell is a part of.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, ​Dr. Morawala-Patell, also the chairman and managing director of Avesthagen, said that aside from the Avestagenome Project, a core area of the firm was to centre its research and development around predictive, preventive, and precision health.

Teestar gummies was therefore launched as first brand by its preventive health arm Avesta Nordic. 

The gummies are formulated with the extract of medicinal plant Trigonella foenum-graecum ​which is rich in galactomannan. 

“We see that our products are perfect for consumer who wants a tastier, more pleasant way of managing health, rather than popping up the capsule or pill.

“This is the first one which we are launching and specially formulated with key nutrients to promote overall health,” ​said Dr.Renuka Jain, senior vice president of the Pharma and Nutrition department. 

Containing 70 per cent of galactomannan, the product is said to work by first forming a colloidal-type suspension in the stomach and the intestine upon hydration.

The mucilage formed in turn slows down gastrointestinal transit of food and digestion, which in turn gives the feeling of satiety. Based on the firm’s study, it also reduces the amount of glucose entering into the blood post meal as compared to the control. 

The product, which comes in the tamarind and litchi flavours, would need to be consumed before about 20 minutes before food. It is sold on Amazon India and would be listed in other sales channels, said Dr. Jain.

Bioactives

Aside from Teestar, the firm has also developed bioactives such as SmartChol and Bonaphyte for cholesterol management and bone health respectively.

“We have been in this field of research for the last 23 years and we have built a range of bioactives which are going to the market for preventive health.

“We want to build individual brands of the bioactives. We have three brands, that’s the TeestarTM​, SmartCholTM​, and BonaphyteTM​," ​said Dr. Morawala-Patell.

These bioactives were developed using the firm’s patented ADePt TM​ and MetaGrid TM  ​technologies.

The former is a bioactive discovery engine and information management relational database, while the latter is a metabolite analysis tool for fingerprinting of phytoextracts.

According to the firm, the technologies “integrate a proprietary database containing thousands of years of Indian traditional medicine with modern-day high-performance chromatography analysis, enzyme and cell biology assays and fractionation tools to isolate distinct extracts and bioactive fractions which have validated therapeutic and clinical benefits.” ​ 

So far, ADePt TM​ has accumulated information on over 5,000 plants, said Dr. Jain. 

Avestagenome Project 

As for the firm's pet project, the Avestagenome Project, the firm is on a mission to collect 10,000 blood samples from the Zoroastrian-Parsi population and analyse their full-phenotypic data.

So far, the firm has finished collecting around 4,500 samples.

According to Dr. Morawala-Patell, this particular community has an average life expectancy of 85 to 95, which is longer than the average of 70 across India.

This is why the firm has embarked on the journey to understand the molecular basis of longevity of this particular community.

To do so, the firm is using next-gen sequencing technology to identify critical disease associated genomic variants that contribute to the health of this particular community. 

“We’ve sequenced a large number of the population and we are analysing them. The biomarkers that come out from them will also be linked into the prevention pipeline and precision pipeline.

“That is still work in progress, but we will see it [to completion] in the next three to five years,” ​said Dr. Morawala-Patell. 

Riding through the storms

Deemed as one of India’s most promising biotech firms, Avesthagen ran into financial troubles in the early 2010s which led to the the exit of senior executives, including those previously from AstraZeneca and PepsiCo. 

To this, Dr. Morawala-Patell emphasised that the company "was not going away", ​given its "powerful range of vision and products". 

"You know, this is a biotech company, and it was positioned for an IPO in 2008. It was the banks that collapsed, not Avesthagen. Avesthagen had such a strong, powerful story, and it has such a powerful range of vision and products. 

"There was no way it was going to go away...The battles of the global markets affect anybody. They affect even Mr. Elon Musk.

"I mean we have to ride through storms. A strong visionary company will ride through storms and keep at it. And so we have all our things intact, all our IPs and all our pipelines are intact and we are heading towards the market with our products and we continue to be very deep in our research. 

"R&D is still the fulcrum of the company," ​she said. 

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