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Validated gut sampling capsule wins innovation award [Interview]

Article-Validated gut sampling capsule wins innovation award [Interview]

Vitafoods Europe 23 | © Steve Burden Photography Nimble Science: Validated gut sampling capsule wins innovation award
Nimble Science was recognised for the most innovative service or technology supporting the nutraceutical industry at the Vitafoods Startup Innovation Challenge 2023.
Nimble Science was recognised for the most innovative service or technology supporting the nutraceutical industry at the Vitafoods Startup Innovation Challenge 2023. We spoke with CEO Dr Sabina Bruehlmann about its unique sampling innovation, addressing clinical and consumer needs and what this means for gut health.

Nimble Science’s capsule-based precision sampling technology is designed to perform liquid biopsies directly from the small intestine. “The capsule is simple, robust and excels at a very basic job,” explains Bruehlmann. “The ease with which it is able to collect a high-quality sample means the previously inaccessible small intestine is now suddenly within reach.

The impetus for developing this capsule technology came from a recognition that we are currently attempting to innovate within gut health with an incomplete picture of our gastrointestinal (GI) tract. There is growing consumer and clinical awareness about the importance of gut health - and an immeasurable amount of effort - and yet our data inputs are limited.

The device was designed and tested as a medical device in pursuit of clinical applications, and the Vitafoods event was our first foray into servicing the field of food and beverages,” says Bruehlmann. “I think the judges reacted to the scale of the opportunity and our delivery of a commercial ready product. We feel that the recognition of the Award is a testament to the need we can fulfill and the type of partner we can be. We are answering the call!

Inspiration out of clinical frustration

The SIMBA capsule was invented by Nimble co-founder Dr. Joseph Wang, who developed the capsule at the request of his father, a GI doctor in China. There is a significant amount of clinical frustration at the inability to properly assess the small intestines in patients.

Today, Nimble is driven by the vast potential of the gut microbiome, and SIMBA’s clinical need to assess health markers in our small and large intestine,” says Bruehlmann.

The conventional method of using stool samples as a proxy for the microbiome is increasingly recognised as being too limiting. We see SIMBA as providing the missing piece of the puzzle, to finally enable simple end-to-end GI multi-omic data insights.

Collecting GI multi-omic data insights

Having a bright idea is one thing however – bringing it to market is quite another. “It didn’t help that we were ready to embark on our clinical validation just as the pandemic hit,” notes Bruehlmann. “So we went back to the bench, tested, refined and ultimately emerged with a superior product that we can now definitively rely on for performance and sample quality.

Another challenge has been that the technology has led to more new questions than it can answer.

The overreliance of stool as a full and complete proxy for the gut microbiome initially left our first industry partners unprepared for the sudden opportunity presented by easy access to the small intestine,” says Bruehlmann. “However, we are delighted to see a shift in this trend. There is mounting pressure on brands to collect better evidence and a realization that better evidence will help us to really move the needle on how nutra-ingredients can impact our health.

Collaborative approach to gut health

Moving forward, Sabina and her team believe that the SIMBA capsule could be highly disruptive.

Delivering multi-omic data benchmarked to endoscopic quality in the home, simply doesn’t exist. We have emphasized usability and cost effectiveness, without having to compromise on quality or cost.

The company also recognizes the importance of ensuring the capsule fits within existing sample collection workflows. “From the outset, we realised that relying solely on delivering capsules to our customers was not enough,” says Bruehlmann. “They need a service that enables them to scale their data collection. Our first customers have quickly become our first partners.

Based in Canada, Nimble Science works closely with several European partners and customers and hopes to expand with their recent success at Vitafoods. “I have learned so much from ingredients providers and their ever increasing reliance on better science,” says Bruehlmann. “From my conversations with participants and attendees at Vitafoods, there is clearly a deep motivation to increase the level of scientific rigour. Precision sampling of the GI is going to play an important role.