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Lipid agonist ingredient aims to help overweight consumers [Interview]

Article-Lipid agonist ingredient aims to help overweight consumers [Interview]

Vitafoods Europe 23 | © Steve Burden Photography EktaH-Winner_Most Innovative Finished Nutraceutical Ingredient at Vitafoods Europe 2023
EktaH was the winner in the Most Innovative Nutraceutical Ingredient category at the Vitafoods Europe 2023 Startup Innovation Challenge. We spoke with the biotech startup’s CEO, Xavier Boidevézi, about applying cutting-edge science to address key societal and health concerns, and the importance of having a long-term vision of the future.

Biotech startup EktaH was recognised at Vitafoods for its development of an innovative molecule that can help consumers with weight loss. At the heart of the innovation are lipid agonists. These activate oral fat taste receptors more intensely than dietary fatty acids, leading to the tongue-brain-gut axis releasing anorexigenic peptides. These in turn trigger early satiety, instantly leading to a reduction in dietary intake and thus body weight.

Out of this research, EktaH was able to develop a calorie-free solution that contains the fat taste receptor agonist, which could become a useful tool in the fight against obesity.

This award provided recognition for the work we have done up until now,” says Boidevézi. “We had to be able to explain our project in front of a jury, and it is always a big help when people provide you with feedback without any filter. This award also provides us with visibility – we can now say that that we are the guys with the innovative ingredient at Vitafoods!

Collaboration to address obesity

The startup was launched when Boidevézi met Professor Naim Khan, a researcher at the University of Bourgogne. “Professor Khan understood that overweight and obese people have a malfunctioning fat taste receptor,” explains Boidevézi. “He wanted to know if he could find a fat taste receptor agonist that would be able to activate the receptor before a meal, to deliver a feeling of satiety.

Boidevézi met Professor Khan in 2020, just after Khan had received an award from the Academy of Medicine for his work. After an international career in the food industry, Boidevézi was fascinated by Khan’s discoveries, and was interested in collaborating to bring them to market.

Professor Khan was searching for someone to take his ideas further, and I was attracted by the ambition of the project,” says Boidevézi. “I was looking for something where I could have an impact. Since founding the startup, we have been awarded important grants, which have helped to build on Professor Khan’s work.

Ambition to fight obesity

Recognition at Vitafoods underlines the innovation’s potential as an effective food supplement to help overweight people control their eating habits. The patented molecule is natural, based on linolic acid, and in Europe, could be considered as a novel food.

This is good for us, as it gives us direct access to the market,” explains Boidevézi. “In order for us to differentiate ourselves, we will need a health claim. For this, clinical studies are required that are run at the same level as for drugs. A concrete next step would be to conduct a pre-clinical toxicological study and submit the file to EFSA.

Placed on the market as a novel food is therefore one pathway that EktaH is considering. Another option would be to take the medical pathway, and market the innovation as a pharmaceutical.

This would therefore be a drug that helps obese people, rather than a food supplement to help overweight people," says Boidevézi. "As a drug, I think we could be market-ready by 2030. As a supplement, the earliest would be 2027 or 2028 – and we’d need a health claim.

With two viable pathways to follow, Boidevézi is confident that EktaH’s innovation will be brought to market before too long. “The feedback we received at Vitafoods suggests to us that we are on the right path,” he says. “We have a fixed goal, and we were able to show what are our ambition is – to fight obesity.