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Tiny technology, big boost for bioavailability—podcast

Audio-Tiny technology, big boost for bioavailability—podcast

Young company, TINY Technologies, has cracked the code on optimised systems that address bioavailability challenges for notoriously tricky ingredients

Ingredient and food supplement manufacturers are often challenged with the low bioavailability nature of a number of different ingredients—which usually have relayed effect on the dosage, side effects, delivery, efficacy, and even compatibility with other ingredients in finished products. In fact, approximately 40-50% of ingredients within the supplement market are fat-soluble and suffer from low bioavailability. It’s not uncommon to see supplement brands advising additional dosing of a supplement to improve levels of intake, but often this causes unpleasant side effects for the end user, which can also turn out to be harmful to health.

Tune into this podcast with Tobias Meller, CEO at TINY Technologies, to hear more about:

  • The challenges when formulating ingredients with low bioavailability
  • The mechanisms of active ingredient absorption in the body
  • Leveraging technology to produce small particles with high stability and optimised active ingredients
  • Exploring an emulsifier-modifying system for optimised ingredient use in capsules


Tobias Meller
 CEO at TINY Technologies

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Vitafoods Insights Podcast

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Podcast transcript:

Vitafoods Insights 00:05
Welcome to the Vitafoods Insights podcast. Join us as we explore the latest science innovation, helping the global health and nutrition industry connect, develop and progress. Today's host is Charlotte Bastiaanse, editor.

Charlotte 00:22
Hi, and thanks for tuning into this Vitafoods Insights podcast. I'm delighted to be joined today by Tobias Meller, who is the CEO at TINY technologies. This is a young company that's headquartered in Germany specialising in technology that improves bioavailability of active ingredients. Thanks for joining me, Tobias. It's a pleasure to have you on the show.

Tobias 00:41
It's a pleasure to be here, Charlie.

Charlotte 00:43
So today we're talking about TINY technologies area of expertise, which is in bioavailability challenges and how these actually relate to the nutritional efficacy of finished products. So we know that consumers turn to nutraceuticals, because they are health conscious, they want natural ingredients. But they also do need to trust that what they've put in their bodies is actually helping them work towards their goal of what they're looking to achieve nutritionally, and I think number of food supplement manufacturers are quite challenged with the low bioavailability nature of a number of different ingredients. And these obviously have a perpetuated effect on dosage, side effects, delivery, efficacy, and even compatibility with other ingredients. So, I'm really excited to dive into this discussion with you, Tobias, on how you're tackling this industry wide issue. But before that, tell us a little bit about your background and what TINY technologies does as a company.

Tobias 01:36
So, I'm Tobias Meller, 32 years old and a chemist, did my PhD studies in technical chemistry. I worked as a research engineer at BASF. Now I'm the CEO of the startup company, TINY technologies. To make it simple, we develop and produce bioavailability optimization systems. When the team came together, we were a group of dedicated scientists and economists who had made it their goal to demonstrately improve people's quality of life with our products. And this is basically what we've been doing for the last three years: researching systems to improve the bioavailability; using them to make products to make active ingredients more bioavailable, more tolerable.

Charlotte 02:22
Thanks for that background, it's so great to have a young innovative company on the show, because these are really the companies that are able to scale and move and create change quite quickly. So let's get into the topic of what we're here to discuss. I really want to start with understanding some of these common challenges surrounding unlocking the best possible bioavailability and active ingredients. When we think of brand owners who are looking to launch a product to the market and they are investigating certain ingredients of interests that will beat some of the health claims that they're looking to put on a product, could you walk us through some of the challenges that I think brands maybe don't foresee? What are the some of the challenges that we can run into when you are developing a new product to launch to market? especially if you are dealing with an ingredient type that people don't actually understand is quite tricky to formulate

Tobias 03:12
If you started looking what sort of products, what sort of ingredients are being sold on the supplement market, 40 to 50% are fat soluble substances, and almost all of them suffer from low bioavailability. For most compounds to biavailability is below 10%, though you take them in orally, and they are transported to your liver metabolise your body, what your body does is make them more water soluble, and they just excrete it. So you don't really use them, there is 90% of them don't really have a benefit for you. So there's lots of room for improvement. And what we did, we were looking at the scientific literature, what can you do to improve the bioavailability? what systems are available? On the market there are liposomes, they are relatively common for the last 10-15 years have they been around. And they do bring some opportunities like increased bioavailability, but they suffer from stability issues. They usually don't taste great. These are some of the key accounts we wanted to tackle. If we look at B2C company, they want to sell a product and they want unique selling points. There is a lot of generic products. Everyone says curcumin and everyone says CoQ10 in capsules, RS powder, but generally these products are all the same and you can advertise by saying it is vegan, it is non GMO. But those products don't really stand out. Low by availability makes these products inefficient. As I said, if you look at fat soluble substances, less than 10% are really taken in transport to your bloodstream where they can have positive effect you desire. And with that comes a poor cost efficiency. What most companies do is they just advise you to take more of the powder or more of the capsules. But this increases the risk for side effects to take in higher amount of active ingredient, which also leads to more metabolites being produced by your liver, so higher risk of side effects. And on the customer side, there is a growing understanding of what bioavailability means and how important it is if you're looking at specific health products or supplements. So, there is an understanding of where that comes demand for high quality and demand for high efficacy products with a reasonable cost efficiency.

Charlotte 05:48
I like that you've highlighted that there are a lot of products that are competing on the market, as you say, we are seeing a lot of products labelled very similarly promoting CoQ10 or promoting things like curcumin as key active ingredients. And we, on the supply chain side of things, know that they're quite tricky in terms of how bioavailable they are, and therefore how efficacious they are, I think, for the end consumer. Thank you also for sort of walking us through how the body actually absorbs some of these nutrients and how a lot of these brands are looking to overcome the issue of low viability by just increasing the amount of the active ingredient, which obviously is creating a lot of side effects problems for the consumer. And that obviously, we know, if they have a bad experience taking a certain supplement, then you're not getting any repeat purchases, and that brand will struggle with the success of its sales. So, suppose when you looked at the market, and there's quite common issue across the industry, I think of being tackled, how did you identify how your company is positioned to address this problem? What does tiny technology offer in order to overcome the issue of bioavailability challenges? You've worked on this for a number of years. Can you walk us through how you sort of assess the market, looks for a solution to be provided, and then roll that out through all the work in science that you've done to creating this technology?

Tobias 07:10
Of course, we started by looking at the available products, the products that are set to increase the bioavailability, predominantly liposomal formulations. And quite a lot on the market. You can differentiate between the ones that are all natural, and the ones that contain artificial ingredients. Basically, the ones with the artificial ingredients work quite well. They form small particles and come to the point where this is important. But being made of artificial ingredients is not what the customer wants. And of course, they increase the risk for side effects being less tolerable, plus human body. On the other side, you have the natural systems, but they suffer from low stability, and they don't increase the bioavailability as much as needed. Now to start with the point what is the optimal bioavailability Enhancement System. Now you have a watery solution. And in that you have lipid particles. These are smaller spherical particles that contain the active ingredient. And the key element to improve the bioavailability is make this particles smaller and smaller. When you have particles below 100 nanometers, the uptake by the body is increased dramatically. They lead to higher bioavailability and also they are much more stable because particles that small they don't coalesce, they don't flow into each other, build higher and larger and larger particles until there is no system left. So this is what we did. We looked into the scientific literature into processing techniques and the formulations rescreened what gives you the best and the smallest, the most stable systems. And we used this knowledge and looked for an all natural system that delivers what we were desiring: the smallest particles, the highest ability and the highest stability and the high capacity for active ingredients. This is basically where we started. And of course, we compared our systems to the ones available on the market. We centrifuge them and we did see that there were solid particles and some of the liposomes available on the market. And on the other hand, we start them under increased temperature. And we saw our system was stable, it was a homogeneous mixtures while other systems basically decomposed, they separated into an oil phase and the water phase.

Charlotte 09:44
Thanks Tobias, it's great to hear this overview of what TINY technologies does and how your science reduces these particles to basically increase uptake in the body. I think that's really promising for improving the overall efficacy of the finished product and tackling some of these problems. ingredients that really do make a more impactful difference to consumers. I have a question around how this gets promoted to the end consumer, because the consumer obviously does not know and understand the process that goes into enhancing the bioavailability of these ingredients, and they obviously have very little way, most of the time of measuring the difference in their bodies, unless it's something that's got an external benefit. So when we think of brands or ingredients companies that want to partner with a company like TINY technologies to improve the overall efficacy of their finished product, how do you see the brands communicating the story of this to the end consumer in order to build the trust in the product, the trust in the industry? I think, it's really keep on investing in food supplements, and obviously, overall, sort of meeting their own nutritional needs.

Tobias 10:54
This is basically a question of communication. And we at TINY technology want to do, what is most important to us is that we can prove all our claims. As I said, I think quite a lot, we are scientific-based company, every claim we have, we prove. You can just conduct bioavailability studies,  of course the best way to do it is do in vivo study following pharmaceutical standards, which gives a clear answer does your system work? really help to improve the bioavailability? but it is also quite expensive and time consuming. We are doing this with an external partner to prove the claims we make. And on the other side, we are developing an in vitro model. So, a laboratory based experiment showing that our system improve the bioavailability compared to let's say, a standard, just the active ingredient to solve an oil or a solid dispersed in water.

Charlotte 11:54
Thanks for sharing that. I agree. There's been a lot of investment, I think, in the clinical trial side of things, especially amongst food supplements. And being held to a pharmaceutical standard, I think we see that the more that pharma also comes into the space they're really redefining the standard of science amongst natural ingredients as well. And fortunately, I think proactive consumers are doing a lot of their own research, they are investigating the brands that they want to support. They're getting quite conscious of how many false products are on the market, it's extremely overwhelming. I think you just need to search a supplement to be completely overwhelmed by the options. And so, how do you choose the most optimal product? So, I completely agree with you, I think the brand story really does need to reflect that communication. This is obviously just been launched really, really exciting for your team, what's next? I'm sure you're just breathing relief that you've sort of gone out to market with the launch of your new technology, what will you be focusing on for the next couple of years?

Tobias 12:51
To make it simple, I will focus on research. Our goal is to always improve our systems, to develop new systems that why we work in close cooperation with the University of Hamburg. There are our laboratories, we have advisors from the pharmaceutical field, and we just fired our first patent, very proud of it. It sure shall not be our last patent. What we did just recently, during the course of a master's thesis from really a brilliant student researcher, we developed the first all-natural, self-modifying system. If you like I could talk a little bit in detail about that.

Charlotte 13:31
Yeah, absolutely, please do.

Tobias 13:33
Quite excited about this development. Now a emulsifier modifying system is basically a pre mixer, you got an oil face, the solvent, and emulsifier and the active ingredient mixed in the right ratios and with the right choice of ingredients. And if you add water to this premix it forms a spontaneous immersion in the nanoscale giving the same advantages as for example, our nano immersion. So what you can do with the system, because this basically just the oil phase and the emulsifier, it does have a really high capacity and you can fill it into a capsule, take it in orally and by contact with the insides of your stomach. It forms spontaneously stable emersions, which are much more bioavailable than the simple active ingredient just dissolved in the oil. Now this is what we do, we develop new systems. What we are currently working on for example is we are spray drying our emersions, our liposomes to get powder which is water soluble and basically gives you back the emersion that the system was before. You can use it to add fat soluble high bioavailable substances to your fruit powders, to supplements let's say in the field of sport ingredients.

Charlotte 14:55
Tobias, thanks, that is so fascinating. I'm really excited about all the work that you arnd your team are working on developing for this market.  It is so important to have scientists at the forefront of some of the biggest challenges of the industry and actively address those that we can develop the next generation of amazing supplements that are really, really valuable for the end consumer. Tobias, it’s been such a pleasure having you on this podcast to all of our listeners, if you're interested in some of the TINY sphere and TINY some technologies that Tobias highlighted during this discussion. I really, really encourage you to visit the link. It'll be linked in the body of this podcast. So please just head over there and take a look at the amazing work that's going into this. But Tobias, thank you so much for joining me. It's been a pleasure to speak to you.

Tobias 15:38
it's been a pleasure to speak to you, many thanks.


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