Biotech start-up backed by Li Ka-shing and Bill Gates to launch its immunity-boosting gut bacteria in Hong Kong, Singapore

Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, and W. Kamau Bell at the 92 Street Y on February 12

By Eric Ng, South China Morning Post | May 6, 2019

A Californian probiotics developer backed by tycoons Li Ka-shing and Bill Gates will launch a dietary product it claims can strengthen infants’ immune system in Hong Kong and Singapore on Tuesday.

Evolve BioSystems said the product works by reintroducing a beneficial gut bacteria that is missing in today’s babies.

Evivo, an activated form of the intestinal bacteria Bifidobacterium infantis, has been mixed with breast milk and fed to “tens of thousands” of babies in the United States since it was launched two years ago, according to Evolve’s chief executive, Timothy Brown.

The company has chosen the two cities, among the richest in Asia, as the regional launchpads for its first foray outside its home market.

It aims to address the autoimmune health challenges that have arisen in the region in the past few decades, such as eczema and allergies, which have coincided with the rise of formula feeding, C-section deliveries and excessive use of antibiotics.

“Our data has confirmed that, at least in the US, nine out of 10 babies have a disrupted gut microbiome,” said David Kyle, Evolve’s chairman and chief scientific officer. “By restructuring the microbiome, we can re-establish a proper immune system.”

Evolve raised US$40 million of private equity funding last summer led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Horizons Ventures, the investment arm of the Li Ka Shing Foundation.

A clinical trial was conducted in 2017 by Evolve’s partner, the Davis Medical Center of the University of California, on breastfed babies who were given Evivo, an activated form of the missing gut bacteria once a day.

 

The study showed that these babies saw an 80 percent reduction in groups of potentially harmful bacteria that have been linked to various diseases later in life. Evolve is funding a similar study at King’s College London.

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