Probiotics Could Hold Key to Ending Global Food Scarcity, Revolutionizing Medicine

Probiotics are clusters of bacteria living in the human digestive system that are claimed to provide a host of health benefits to the host. Among the benefits thought to originate from probiotics, also called gut flora, are better regulation of the digestive process and reduced risk of gastric disorders. While the term ‘probiotic’ came into common use in the second half of the 20th century, the idea of modifying the makeup of gut flora had been touted as early as 1907, by Nobel laureate √Člie Metchnikoff.

In modern times, the probiotics market has gained speed due to the growing awareness among the masses about gut health. The increasing preference to proactively maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid diseases rather than spending vast sums on treating them is also responsible for the growing demand from the global probiotics market. According to leading market analysis and intelligence firm Transparency Market Research, the global probiotics market is expected to rise from a valuation of US$62.6 bn to US$96 bn by 2020.

Synlogic’s Designer Probiotics Program Moves One Step Closer to Fruition

Cambridge-based biotech company Synlogic recently raised US$40 mn in a Series B round, bringing its total investment to US$70 million. Synlogic plans to utilize customized medicine generated from probiotics to treat the cause of several diseases. Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the primary diseases aimed by Synlogic in its primary phase. This approach helps root out not just the disease itself but the condition that led to the disease in the first place.

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This program, if successful, would represent a major advancement in the field of probiotics. Currently, the major consumer group of the global probiotics market is health-conscious consumers looking to maintain and enhance their gut health in an altogether generic way. Success in developing these customizable probiotics-derived medicines would lead to the formation of a brand new consumer demographic: patients looking to treat specific bowel disorders, adding a new facet to the growth prospects of the global probiotics market.

Probiotics for Plants to Ameliorate Food Scarcity

Like humans, plants have also evolved to utilize a particular set of bacteria to their benefit. Plant probiotics can provide several benefits to plants, aiding their overall yield. This has emerged as a crucial potential benefit of probiotics.

The development of agriculture from its humble roots in prehistoric times to the mechanized goliath of modern times has led to severe damage to the environment. The rising global population has necessitated increasing crop yields, but many pesticides have had a similar effect to antibiotics, causing a severe reduction in the levels of plant-friendly bacteria along with harmful weeds and pests. This has led to the development of a new, radical method: utilizing probiotics to naturally increase plant yield.

Another Cambridge-based startup, Indigo, estimates that using probiotics on a large scale could raise crop yield by 10%, with the gains in crop yield increasing as the technology becomes more refined. This breakthrough could potentially have world-changing applications and it’s not far-fetched to suggest this probiotics-based method could herald the start of a second Green Revolution.

Thus, with new innovations waiting to pop out of the pipeline, the global probiotics market is set to witness a rising trajectory in the coming years.


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