Special Report: The New Era of Life Sciences
Selected Quotes from the Interview with
Nicolas Coudurier, CEO, Biocodex
In which ways is Biocodex harnessing the power of microbiota in the life sciences space, considering the company’s long-standing presence in this space?
2023 is the 100-year anniversary of the discovery of the first probiotic yeast strain, Saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745®, which is the cornerstone of Biocodex’ over 100 studies in the space of microbiota. The company was founded back in mid-50’s and the founders have always felt that this new area of discovery held far more than meets the eye. We strived to get our drug approved with tenacity, catching the signals regarding the shift from the single use of microbiota to further applications.
We are a still French based, family-owned company, with a state-of-the-art facility in the North of Paris – which is producing 250 tons of our yeast strain, Saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745®, converting into 100 million units of products and nearly 1 billion doses that are shipped all over the world. 20 years ago, when I joined the company, the revenues were eight times smaller than the €500 million that we have today, and the domestic market shared 70% of this turnover. Nowadays, this percentage is much lower, around 35%, as we succeeded in extending our international footprint. We serve over 100 countries through 16 fully owned subsidiaries in the U.S., Europe, Turkey, Mexico, etc. and a network of partners around the globe.
What is your take on the massive growth of the gut health trends in the last few years?
Over the past five years, microbiota has turned into a trendy subject and many actors from outside of the healthcare industry have picked up on it, with books or TV shows covering it in more or less scientific ways. Having a strong legacy in this space, it is in our responsibility to accelerate the science backed knowledge that supports this area of medicine. Microbiota is an intrinsic part of our body and evolves through the course of our lives. It is a combination of 10,000 billion microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi, which form a complex balanced ecosystem. Besides IBS or other gastrointestinal pathologies, microbiota has also been linked to imbalances that might have an influence on cancer or diabetes evolution. These findings are opening up fantastic avenues, moreover since the gut is known as the second brain.
What is the road from idea/inception to actually delivering microbiota related treatments for these types of serious illnesses and how can we all get there?
I believe we can get there through knowledge and collaboration. Five years ago, we decided to go beyond the drug per se and disseminate microbiota scientific knowledge both to the public and to healthcare professionals. In order to do this, we created the Biocodex Microbiota Institute with the aim to provide continuous qualitative content in this space. Furthermore, we built the Biocodex Microbiota Foundation , a non-profit foundation that supports a wide spectrum of microbiota research through grants (worth €600,000 per year) and projects committed to improve global health. We also started various partnerships with startups that are pioneering certain areas of microbiota.
To give you a concrete example, since 2016 we have been partnering with MaaT Pharma – which evaluates microbiota transplantation as a therapeutic option for Graft-versus-host disease or myeloid leukemia. After chemotherapy, the gut balance is compromised, so by re-translating the patient’s own microbiota we can possibly re-colonize the system with microorganisms and reestablish the body’s parameters. This is a very promising technology that could maybe open the way to translation from patient to patient through a freeze dried, orally administered microbiota pill. In addition to these, we also have a partnership with GMT – which is a startup company that designs tests that could diagnose gut microbiota imbalance. We also have a partnership with Exeliom Biosciences that evaluates the impact of Faecalibacterium Prausnitzii in inflammatory bowel diseases or cancer patients.
What role do orphan diseases play in your larger portfolio?
Biocodex has a second pillar in orphan diseases through DIACOMIT® (stiripentol), which is a therapy indicated in a severe form of epilepsy that starts in infancy, called Dravet syndrome. In 2008 we received approval to commercialize it in Europe and ten years later we got accepted in the U.S. This condition affects one in 40,000 children and it is a very complicated rare disease with up to 50 generalized epileptic seizures per day, hurting cognitive development. Unfortunately, the time from the first visit to a healthcare practitioner to a Dravet syndrome diagnosis can be from six months to several years and then access to an adequate treatment can take up to many more. We are working on developing therapies, but also collaborating with patient foundations.
What are some of the most important objectives that you want to achieve in the years to come?
Because our ultimate goal is to move from cure to care, prevention plays an important role in our business model. To follow this path, we partnered with the French Gut project which has the ambition to map and analyze intestinal microbiota. Over 100,000 French citizens are donating their stools to be assessed to create a baseline for healthy microbiota and any possible deviations in chronic diseases. Digital health is an important piece in our puzzle, and we are seeking collaborations with innovative companies that could provide solutions that go beyond taking a pill.