A Multi-Decade Legacy of Research Defined by 3 Superstrains
UAS Labs has been at the forefront of probiotic research for almost 40 years. Since opening its doors in 1979, the probiotic specialist has developed a series of strains that have moved the field beyond its roots and into the emerging era of condition-specific products. In doing so, UAS Labs has redefined what it means to do high-quality probiotic research by putting its strains through rigorous clinical trials.
The story of UAS Labs can be told in multiple ways. One version of the story would focus on the infrastructure investments UAS Labs has made to enable the development and production of quality probiotics. These investments date back to the early days of the company and continue to this day, with its recent $60 million outlay on fermentation and freeze-drying capacity a notable example.
UAS Labs’ story can also been seen through its three probiotic superstrains: Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS®-1 , Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242 LRC™ and Lactobacillus gasseri BNR17™ . These strains tell the story of UAS Labs’ willingness to invest in research that shows, for better or worse, the true effects of its probiotics. That willingness has seen UAS Labs test its strains in a series of randomized controlled clinical trials that rigorously assessed their efficacy against predefined endpoints.
The story of UAS Labs’ legacy of research starts with DDS®-1 , a strain that Dr. Khem Shahani discovered after he began researching L. acidophilus in the late 1950s. DDS®-1 stood out because of its growth, stability and health-promoting properties, encouraging Shahani and later UAS Labs to test the strain in a series of clinical trials. Several decades and around 30 peer-reviewed publications later, DDS®-1 is established as one of the most comprehensively studied probiotic strains.
Highlights of the extensive research into DDS®-1 include two clinical trials. One of the trials compared DDS®-1 to placebo in 90 preschool children and was shown to provide a 34% improvement on a symptom score. DDS®-1 outperformed placebo against secondary endpoints, too.
The second trial gave DDS®-1, plus Bifidobacterium lactis UABLA-12, or placebo to 240 children. This study resulted in less days of missed school for those receiving the probiotic. The difference was statistically significant.
DDS®-1 is the subject of notable clinical trials in adults, too. One of the many successful adult trials of DDS®-1 enrolled healthy volunteers who complained of lactose digestive issues. Eligible participants were randomized to take to DDS®-1 or placebo for four weeks followed by a two-week washout period. At the end of the washout period, the participants switched to the other arm of the trial.
The study linked consumption of DDS®-1 to statistically-significant reductions in digestive issues. DDS®-1 also provided an overall symptom score better than that of the placebo.
These three trials are just a snapshot of the research into DDS®-1, which has been evaluated for use as both a single strain and a blend in women’s health, immune health, digestive health and other areas. Despite that legacy of research, UAS Labs continues to see opportunities to invest in DDS®-1. In 2018, UAS Labs bought Nebraska Cultures to become the exclusive supplier of DDS®-1 and it continues to support clinical trials of the strain on multiple continents.
While DDS®-1 is the defining strain of the first three decades of UAS Labs, LRC™ is synonymous with the evolution of the company since it changed ownership in 2013. Under the leadership of CEO Kevin Mehring and CSO Dr Greg Leyer, UAS Labs identified LRC™ as the strain to spearhead its efforts to move the company — and industry as a whole — into an era of condition-specific probiotics backed up by data from gold-standard clinical trials.
UAS Labs’ belief in the potential of the strain stemmed from the work performed by Micropharma, the company that discovered it and took it through early development. Micropharma set out to find a strain with elevated activity of bile salt hydrolase — an enzyme involved in cholesterol metabolism — by screening more than 100 potential candidates. LRC™ emerged as the most promising prospect.
After optimizing LRC™ to further increase production of the enzyme, Micropharma started to build a comprehensive data package demonstrating the efficacy of the strain. The strength of the data and rigorousness of the science behind it attracted UAS Labs, which acquired Micropharma in 2014 and drove them to continue the reserarch efforts.
These efforts have created supporting clinical data. The core of the supporting data comes from two randomized controlled clinical trials, which compared LRC™ to placebo in more than 240 subjects. The trials, which assessed LRC™ in yogurt and capsule forms, showed LRC to support healthy cholesterol already within a normal range. Both trials also linked the strain to healthy levels of other health biomarkers.
The ongoing investment in clinical development of LRC™ is one sign that UAS Labs is keen to further its legacy of research. Another sign comes from the latest addition to UAS Labs’ stable of superstrains, BNR17™.
UAS Labs licensed BNR17™ from AceBiome to address the need for clinically-validated probiotics that fit into a healthy, weight-conscious lifestyle. As with LRC™, UAS Labs identified BNR17™ as a good fit for its portfolio after finding it had been developed in a rigorous, scientific manner.
BNR17™ was isolated from human breast milk and established its credentials as a weight management strain in a series of preclinical and clinical tests. The first breakthrough came when researchers saw that animals that received BNR17™ gained weight more slowly. That led to preclinical evaluations of the strain’s weight management mechanism of action and later to three placebo-controlled clinical trials.
Across the two weight management trials people who took BNR17™ experienced improvements in BMI and waist and hip circumferences. A third trial in people with irritable bowel syndrome linked the strain to the normalization of bowel habits.
The 15 experts who judged the 2018 NutraIngredients-USA Awards deemed the existing BNR17™ data package compelling enough to name the strain weight management ingredient of the year . UAS Labs thinks it can further improve the dataset, though, and is planning to initiate a well-powered clinical trial next year. The upcoming study will assess the effect of BNR17™ on relevant weight management to provide further evidence of the role the strain can play in healthy lifestyles.
UAS Labs’ investment in DDS®-1, LRC™ and BNR17™ creates an uninterrupted legacy of research dating back to the early days of the company in the 1970s. The story is far from over. In 2019, UAS Labs will get its clinical development program for BNR17™ underway as it seeks to establish the strain as part of the armory of tools to support healthy weight . Beyond that, UAS Labs will continue to execute the playbook that has served it well to date. That means UAS Labs will remain alert for opportunities to expand the frontiers of the probiotic industry through high-quality research that builds on its legacy of leadership in the field.