Meet the Team – Dr. Lucien Harthoorn

Get to know the team behind Clasado Biosciences. In our Meet the Team series, we find out more about the people behind the business, what they find most intriguing about gut health and gut microbiome science, and what motivates them to succeed. Read on to discover more.

Name

Dr. Lucien Harthoorn

Role

Research & Development Director

When did you join Clasado Biosciences?

January 2020

What first attracted you to work at Clasado?

Clasado is first and foremost a science-based company, which is why the business holds such a strong position in the prebiotics industry. Personally, I prefer to work at companies that deliver clinically relevant and proven solutions. After all – that’s how we make a real difference to the marketplace and the world around us. 

Over many years, Clasado has shown that strong scientific backing and a robust portfolio of clinical studies can power the health and nutrition sector forward, helping brands to develop products that offer important benefits to the consumer.

What does an ‘average day’ look like in your role?

One of the most exciting aspects of my role is that no two days are the same! As Research & Development Director, I am responsible for the pre-clinical and clinical research, as well as the substantiation of our unique products.

Day to day, I manage the Clasado Biosciences team of highly qualified, passionate and talented scientists that lead our research projects and clinical trials. I am responsible for guiding a research and development strategy that maintains our leading position and ensures that short, medium and long-term initiatives fully deliver on their objectives and potential. 

As a leading name in our field, we have a responsibility to lead important public discourse on microbiome science and prebiotics. We must also clearly understand the unique needs and perspectives of our customers – food and supplement brands and their manufacturers – as well as Healthcare Professionals. Collaboration with external research partners, including academic institutions, universities and medical faculties are also core to ensuring we achieve this. 

My role often involves engaging with the market and facilitating this for our science team, attending conferences and connecting with scientific communities and organisations. As Research & Development Director, I also have a role to play in overseeing certain aspects of Regulatory Affairs.

What excites you the most about microbiome science and gut health?

I’m intrigued by the connections and interactions that the gut microbiome has with a diverse number of organ systems and the potential benefits to health as a result.

The volume and quality of data coming from the gut microbiome field particularly fascinates me. We are learning so much, so quickly. It’s particularly exciting to drive deeper understanding of gut health and the gut microbiome and to discover the difference that nutrition can make to an individual’s health and wellbeing.

What is your specific field of interest within microbiome science and how would you describe your previous experience?

I originally trained in Biomedical Sciences with a degree in Pharmacology from the Free University in Amsterdam, followed by a PhD in Metabolism and Endocrinology from Utrecht University, The Netherlands. 

A turning point for me was around 15 years ago. I came across pan-European research projects in nutrition. Seeing academia and industries collaborating so closely was captivating and I knew I had to be involved. 

Leading international research projects for large corporations, I have worked with Key Opinion Leaders, Principal Investigators and Doctors to better understand how nutrition influences health and disease outcomes, both immediately and in the future. 

Studying the gut microbiome in early life offers a unique window of opportunity for modulation and understanding how to support its further development through nutrition and specific compounds such as galactooligosaccharide (GOS) structures.

Which particular studies or research projects capture your attention?

Now that we are beginning to understand the gut microbiome’s strong connection and interplay with the immune system, the central and peripheral nervous systems – and even remote organ systems such as the skin, lungs and liver – studies that help us better understand the gut microbiota as a ‘community’, its metabolites and its influence on other connected organ systems, are paramount. 

I am particularly drawn to large scale research consortia and studies, such as the NIH Human Microbiome Project, MetaHIT and more recently, the OncoBiome, Microb-Predict and GEMMA projects. These studies are investigating not just what the microbiome looks like and ‘that’ it relates to certain disease phenotypes, but ‘how’ it relates to health and disease outcomes and what we can do about it. In essence, this makes the microbiome even more clinically relevant. 

There is still so much to uncover and understand in microbiome science. It is a real driver for us at Clasado as we commit to our mission of ‘leveraging our leading microbiome science to deliver targeted solutions for human health and wellbeing’. 

In your own words, what sets Bimuno apart in the ingredients market?

The prebiotics category, along with probiotics, is a very promising approach in several important health and disease areas. We often describe probiotics as the seeds and prebiotics as the fertiliser for maintaining ‘beneficial gut microbiome soil’. 

What sets Bimuno apart in the ingredients market is the strong, in fact the best, empirical evidence data and the comprehensive studies behind it. Bimuno is the most studied prebiotic of its kind, supported by over 90 scientific publications, including more than 20 clinical studies. 

What our customers find particularly valuable is how the ingredient can be harnessed to formulate products with ease and simplicity. Our Bimuno GOS is very stable and versatile and importantly, effective at a very low dose.

How do you think the prebiotics category will grow and develop over the next 24 months?

There is huge growth potential on the horizon for the prebiotics category, which should be making brands in the health and nutrition industry take notice. According to intelligence agency Allied Market Research, the anticipated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for prebiotic ingredients is estimated to be around 12%, and the category is expected to reach a global value of over $8,621 million by 2023, outperforming many other ingredient segments in food and pharmaceuticals. Europe is still by far the largest total market for prebiotics, but APAC is currently the fastest-growing region. 

To drive the category forward and unlock its potential, we collectively need to create more awareness, and that begins with education. Whether we are speaking to the consumer, our functional food and beverage customers, or health care professionals, communicating the fundamental benefits and relevance of prebiotics is key.

Which food or supplement categories would you like to see make better use of prebiotic fibre?

The stability and versatility of prebiotic fibre means there are plenty of opportunities on the table, across a broad range of formats, benefit areas and populations.

‘Synbiotics’ are certainly a category to watch! The combination of prebiotics and probiotics is an area that I feel is still largely uncultivated and undervalued but has exciting commercial potential. It’s all about synergy and complementarity, between the seeds (probiotics) and fertiliser (prebiotics) that can help support the gut microbiome effectively and contribute to health and wellbeing. 

Looking into the future of health and nutrition, with the right awareness, robustness and consistency of evidence, I think prebiotics could potentially be positioned on its own in terms of disease management or as an adjunctive to medicine.

What inspires you at work?

For me, it’s the connections and collaborations that we have with research partners, University research groups, Key Opinion Leaders and Health Care Professionals. 

In microbiome science, and indeed health science as a whole, no individual can work purely in isolation. Our interactions with the ‘outside world’ are a really key driver. It’s the base for having good, meaningful scientific discussion and ideation sessions, providing that essential transition from scientific knowledge to health application.

So far, what achievement at Clasado are you most proud of?

There are milestones that our team has reached in a comparatively short space of time, with a relatively newly established R&D team, comprising driven, talented and passionate individuals. 

Our continuous R&D output in terms of dissemination and effective communication of scientific and clinically relevant results, a new Research & Development roadmap and greater focus on robustness of projects are all areas to be proud of.

In closing, what message would you give to potential customers looking to introduce Bimuno into their new or existing product range?

I would highlight that over the last decade, the science has very clearly shown the strong interplay between the gut, its microbiome and many other organ systems and body functions. We are beginning to see the gut microbiome as an ‘organ’ on its own, and the research connecting it to physical and mental health is compelling.

The Bimuno prebiotic ingredient offers a way for brands in nutraceuticals, supplements and functional foods to tap into this fast-paced field as it accelerates. It’s a truly first-class ingredient, with the strongest evidence and the highest number of studies in its category.