Targeted probiotics with high efficacy.

Beneficial Bacteria for Soothing Infant Colic

About 20% of all babies worldwide suffer from infant colic and cry excessively during the first five months of their lives. The soon-​to-be ETH spin-​off SURI BioTech is developing a solution for infant colic using beneficial bacteria to bring relief.

The birth of a child is probably one of the most profound experiences in life. Why some babies develop infant colic, but others do not, remains a mystery to this day. Whether a first-​time or an experienced parent, seeing one’s beloved infant crying while exhibiting excruciating pain is terribly distressing. Colic symptoms are always the same, sudden bouts of inconsolable crying that extend for more than three hours a day and that start without an obvious cause which can impact the baby and the parents’ mental and physical health.

The power of natural bacteria and their metabolism

There are currently no products with strong scientific proof of efficacy for infant colic available – which is why SURI BioTech aims to produce a natural and affordable product that helps babies. SURI BioTech founder and ETH Pioneer Fellow Dr. sc. Vanesa N. Rocha Martin and her team have discovered how certain food-​grade bacterial strains can have a direct, beneficial impact on colic babies by significantly limiting the accumulation of intestinal hydrogen gas. With the goal of creating the first product to alleviate infant colic, SURI BioTech has developed the microbial solution “BactoKind”.

“BactoKind” – the first product of SURI BioTech

Based on scientifically identified mechanisms*, BactoKind formulation needs to be resuspended in breast or bottle-​milk and supplemented orally until the colic period ends which usually occurs at 4 to 5 months of age. BactoKind’s key ingredient is a consortium of bacterial strains, which impacts the metabolism of the gut microbiome, reducing gas production, and the associated bloating and pain. To develop the solution, Vanesa draws on her strong scientific background and data built in over 12 years of research at ETH Zurich’s Food Biotechnology Laboratory led by Professor Christophe Lacroix. Her research was also done in collaboration with the Gastroenterology and Nutrition Unit at the University Children’s Hospital in Zurich (KISPI).

“BactoKind is a food supplement based on scientifically identified mechanisms.” Vanesa Rocha Martin, founder and ETH Pioneer Fellow alumni

Lab testing indicated that the formulation is safe for consumption. Clinical trials will be initiated in 2024 with the aim of demonstrating efficacy in reducing crying time in colic newborns. SURI BioTech is also planning to gather feedback from parents whose babies are being given BactoKind with the integration of an app that will automatically recognize the baby crying – and this with the aim of determining how often, how long, and what kind of crying.

Prototype of BactoKind formula ampoule (source: SURI BioTech)
Prototype of BactoKind formula ampoule (source: SURI BioTech)


Looking beyond babies, the company will develop two more applications

Beyond helping colic babies, SURI BioTech plans the development of further formulations for two more applications helping a wider range of people – those suffering from lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome, a disorder involving recurrent abdominal pain in relation to the digestive tract.

Promising outlook

The market for health-​promoting bacteria, the so-​called probiotics, is growing globally and the potential for SURI BioTech looks very promising. People already know and trust the effectiveness of probiotics from foods such as yoghurt. The company is planned to be founded in 2022. They are starting their first investment round this summer and are looking especially for a lead investor.

Team SURI BioTech from left: Mathilde Dupin (co-​founder, Head of Business), Vanesa Rocha Martin (co-​founder, CEO), Veronica Zimmermann (Research Assistant) (Source: SURI BioTech) (© Tuule Müürsepp)

Source: ETH Zürich
Author: Sybille Zimmermann

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