Collaborative Research – Teagasc and UCC & Suntory Wellness
Prof. Catherine Stanton, Prof. Paul Ross, Prof. John Cryan
Suntory Wellness Ltd is the leading health food company in Japan and part of the multinational Suntory Group which employs 39,000 employees globally with an annual revenue of $20 billion. Its key business segments are health foods including functional foods and foods for specified use, packaged foods, food services, beverages and nutritive drinks. The company develops new and innovative health and wellness products and conduct R&D activities in partnership with international collaborators.
Resulting from Irish Ministerial trade visits to Japan in 2008 and 2009, Suntory initially worked with Teagasc and UCC in 2011 under an Innovation Partnership in 2013 to develop a novel probiotic product, Lactet, for body fat reduction substantiated by health claims. The results of this research, allowed Suntory to strengthen their scientific and marketing literature for the product that led to a tripling of sales from $6.1m in 2013 to $19.1m in 2016. This growth, in turn, led to the commercial decision to build Lactet as a major product in its business. It also influenced the company’s R&D strategy and the research undertaken with Teagasc and UCC formed the basis of a human trial that was undertaken in 2017/18. The product has now been rebranded as LacFIT having been successfully granted a functional food claim for body fat reduction by the Japan Consumer Affairs Agency and is due to launch to market at the end of October 2019.
Suntory attributes the successful conclusion of this product’s commercial journey to its early partnering with Teagasc and UCC which began with an EI-funded Innovation Partnership and led to two further collaborative research projects in 2014 and 2016 with SFI-funded APC Microbiome Ireland that included Teagasc and UCC. The project positioned Teagasc and UCC as leaders in the field of microbiota, probiotics and metabolic health and contributed to their ability to attract increasing numbers of international partner companies.
Having led the negotiation of the initial Innovation Partnership Agreement with Suntory, the TTO at Teagasc was instrumental in successfully getting this project underway. The office worked with the company to ensure they were familiar with Irish procedures including the National IP Protocol and managed all elements relating to Background and Foreground IP across the project. The TTOs at Teagasc and UCC worked together to transfer the product IP to Suntory and maintain contact with the team at Suntory to track success of the product and enjoy a continued strong relationship.
Underpinning Funding Sources Include:
Science Foundation Ireland