Work on intestinal microbiota carried out at INRA for more than 30 years has, with the recent development of metagenomics, led to new breakthroughs that have transformed our understanding of the ecosystem of the human digestive tract. Microbiota – the set of bacteria living in our digestive tract – is now considered an organ in itself. Acting on the microbiota for health reasons presents major challenges, but it creates revolutionary possibilities, particularly in terms of nutrition and personalised medicine. For its work in this field, which builds on INRA’s research, MaaT Pharma was recognised at the Worldwide Innovation Challenge and received its award on 17 September in the presence of the President of France, François Hollande. MaaT Pharma’s project deals with treating severe intestinal microbiota disorders, in various clinical settings, with innovative technologies making use of microbiotherapy.
“This prize recognises our expertise in this field and the excellence of research in France, particularly that of our partner, INRA, a world leader in intestinal microbiota research” says Hervé Affagard, MaaT Pharma’s CEO.
“With advances in new technologies such as metagenomics developed as a part of the MetaGenoPolis project1, INRA’s many years of intestinal microbiota research, carried out in its MICALIS research unit2 , have made it possible to make breakthroughs in our understanding of this field” says Joël Doré, INRA research director and MaaT Pharma science advisor.
“I very much value the partnership between INRA and MaaT Pharma and congratulate them on winning this award” says INRA president François Houllier. “Through this collaboration, the pioneering knowledge developed in our laboratories will be of service to patients. This experience with MaaT Pharma perfectly illustrates not only the role of public research in innovation but also of the public service role of science in general, which is characteristic of our work at INRA.”
Major scientific findings
Leading-edge research on intestinal microbiota, drawing heavily on metagenomics, has shown that the microorganisms living in our intestines are constantly communicating with our immune system, our liver, and our brain. Changes to these communication patterns may contribute to a number of major illnesses affecting modern societies whose prevalence has been on a constant rise over the past 50 years. Humans are now seen as human–microbe symbionts, and harmony in this relationship is critical for maintaining health and wellbeing.
Acting on the microbiota for health reasons is a major challenge with a number of different approaches: nutrition; functional foods; and even the reconstruction of microbiota ecology through transplants of intestinal contents.