This article was originally published in Start Up
A grass roots movement on the part of consumers, aided by the internet, has caused pharmaceutical companies and start-ups to look seriously at herbal medicines. Pharmaceutical companies are responding to consumer demand by acquiring or adding new divisions that sell dietary supplements, while start-ups hope to develop multi-component herbal products into larger margin drugs.
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NuMe Health Inc. aims to market mixtures of edible substances that will act as "prebiotics" to shift ratios of certain bacteria in the lower intestine. The start-up intends to educate consumers about how "managing the microbiome" with products that are not drugs can positively affect metabolic health. First up: a mixture NuMe expects will improve biomarkers associated with pre-diabetes.
Paths to commercialization are uncertain in nutrigenomics, an emerging science which seeks to identify gene-food interactions that differ among subpopulations and between individuals and to personalize diets to prevent disease.
These days, consumers reach for calcium-fortified orange juice to keep bones healthy, whole-grain Cheerios that reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, and bags of walnuts that advertise Omega 3, for heart health. The founders of WellGen believe the time is right to push the frontier of food science into medicine. With a patent from Rutgers University, WellGen will screen food substances against genes implicated in diseases.