Brain & nutrition: the new challenges of innovation

For years now, psychiatric research has shown a close link between gut microbiota and mental health, and consequently between nutrition and psychiatric disorders.

The FondaMental Foundation and Newfund recently partnered on a state-of-the-art report on the brain-gut connection and related therapeutic innovations being developed by startups around the world.

In 2015, the surprise success of medical student Giulia Enders’ book “The Discreet Charm of the Gut” put a spotlight on one of the organs we thought we knew everything about. This renewed interest in the brain-gut connection resulted in an acceleration of research and innovation around diet and its impact on health, especially mental health. Today, there is little doubt that what happens in the intestines impacts the brain.

The purpose of this study was to review the array of brain-gut innovations taking place among startups around the world. Today, the field is extremely active, with a number of startups bringing new solutions and treatments to market. Entrepreneurs are primarily working in three different fields of research:
• dietary supplements related to the symbiosis of bacteria in the intestine
• medicinal biotherapies that can correct imbalances
• and the complete replacement of the microbiota, an advanced solution and the most difficult to implement currently.

On a global level, American, British, and Canadian healthtech start-ups specializing in psychonutrition dominate the market, with the United States accounting for 50% of startups linked to microbiota research and 80% of the financing raised. The European ecosystem suffers from slower deployment, especially in France, due to restrictive regulations that prevent risk-taking in this sector.

If French and European startups can cut through the red tape, the market is there. Most consumers are now paying attention to what’s on their plates and want to take care of both their physical and mental health. In the future, the line between food and medicine will no longer exist. Foods will be nutritious, ecological, and personalized to meet our needs. Daily supplements will no longer be necessary. Instead, what we eat will nourish our bodies – and our brainpower.

If these topics are of interest to you and you feel you can contribute as an entrepreneur, a clinician, or an ally, please reach out.