Kyowa Hakko Bio partners with A*STAR to unlock ‘full potential’ of HMOs beyond infant health

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Kyowa Hakko Bio and A*STAR are collaborating to advance research on HMOs and explore their potential applications to benefit people of all ages. ©Getty Images
Kyowa Hakko Bio and A*STAR are collaborating to advance research on HMOs and explore their potential applications to benefit people of all ages. ©Getty Images

Related tags Kyowa Hakko Bio HMOs ASTAR Gut health immune function

Kirin-owned Kyowa Hakko Bio will be collaborating with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) in Singapore to advance research on human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) and explore their potential applications, particularly in the areas of gut health and immune function.

The announcement follows recent HMOs developments around the region, including Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)’s approval​ of dsm-firmenich’s HMOs for use in infant formula products, Nestle’s launch​ of its first HMOs-containing growing up formula in China, and IFF, dsm-firmenich, and Mengniu’s HMOs​ officially permitted for use in China’s infant formula.

HMOs are complex carbohydrates found exclusively in human breast milk, and are known to play a significant role in infant health and development.

Kyowa Hakko Bio is said to be a leader in HMO R&D in Asia and has an HMO manufacturing plant in Thailand, while A*STAR’s Singapore Institute for Clinical Science (SICS) conducts large-scale birth cohort studies in the region and has extensive experience in clinical research related to health and nutrition.

As part of this collaboration, researchers from SICS will be working closely with Kyowa Hakko Bio’s biotechnology and nutrition team to uncover the benefits of HMOs, such as stimulating the growth of good bacteria in the gut and supporting immune regulation.

“There have been few clinical studies on adults in Asia [with regard to HMOs]. The two teams will be jointly undertaking trials to enhance our understanding of these essential compounds and unlock the full potential of HMOs in promoting health and well-being.

“By clarifying the effects of HMOs intake on the gut microbiome and the intestinal environment, as well as its effects on immune function through clinical studies on adults, we aim to provide new health value through HMOs to as many consumers as possible,” ​Dr Eri Nakazaki, Senior Scientist and Manager of Corporate Strategy Department at Kyowa Hakko Bio, told NutraIngredients-Asia​.

In addition, Dr Nakazaki said that although the trial will be held in Singapore, the purpose of the R&D is aimed at implementation not only in the country, but also across the Asian region.

Benefits for all ages

As research on HMOs progresses, they can be expected to serve greater functions than just nutrients for infants, according to Dr Nakazaki.

“In addition to powdered infant formula, we envision the application of HMOs in dietary supplements and functional foods in the future.This marks an exciting chapter in our ongoing commitment to exploring the benefits of HMOs.

“We believe that this partnership will yield valuable insights that can benefit people of all ages. While we cannot confirm details of the research yet, the findings will be presented at conferences and academic seminars sponsored by Kyowa Hakka Bio as soon as the results are finalised,” ​she added.

On the same note, Prof Jeroen Schmitt, Senior Principal Investigator at A*STAR’s SICS, said that the team is enthusiastic to work alongside Kyowa Hakka Bio in this pioneering research endeavour.

“Together, we seek to deepen our knowledge of HMOs and their potential applications, ultimately contributing to advancements in healthcare and nutrition,” ​he reiterated. 

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