Professor opts out of probiotic commercialisation route to concentrate on research


In a world in which scientists are often encouraged to commercialise their research findings, there’s something quite noble about Gregor Reid.

He’s a professor these days of microbiology and immunology at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and director of the Canadian Research and Development Centre for Probiotics. (More info here)

When he first started researching the probiotic (good bacteria) over 25 years ago, it was considered a bit left field and unnecessary, since antibiotics were all that was considered necessary.

As time has gone on however with no new antibiotics and a growing bacterial resistance, the role of probiotics and their ability to crowd out harmful bacteria has become increasingly important.

As a Scotsman, who carried out his undergraduate studies at Massey University and gained a Canadian post-doctoral scholarship, Reid ended up working on women’s urinary tract infections.

His research found that lactobacilli prevent infections by colonizing and outcompeting other more harmful varieties. Some of this research was patented, mostly around what the organism does and how it operates.
Monash University, where Reid did an MBA wanted to jointly commercialise the science, including potentially taking the resulting company to the NASDAQ.

“But I could see a potential conflict of interest, and had decided I didn’t want to be in business,” Reid says.
Two years ago the patent rights were sold, and is now sold as Flora Restore, a product to help vaginas repopulate with beneficial bacteria.

Reid is now able to concentrate more fully on the science of probiotics and how they work.

As antibiotic resistance grows, it also allows him to be at the forefront of probiotic’s means of preventing infection.

Reid says future approaches to ridding patients of infections will not be as dependent on the ‘carpet bombing’ technique of antibiotics, but be much more strategic.

Genetic bioinformatics and gene sequencing will see much more personalised medicine happening in the future. The role of probiotics and prebiotics (something that stimulates the growth of beneficial organisms), will have a much more important role to play in tomorrow’s medicine he says.

“There’s no reason such products couldn’t come from New Zealand,” he says.

(Prof Reid recently visited New Zealand to receive a Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award from Massey University. See the Manawatu Standard’s write up here).

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About sticknz

sticK is by Peter Kerr, a writer for hire. I have a broad science and technology background and interest, with an original degree in agricultural science. My writing speciality is making the complex understandable. I am available for outside consultancy work, and for general discussions of converting a good idea into something positive
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One Response to Professor opts out of probiotic commercialisation route to concentrate on research

  1. Gregor Reid says:

    Thanks for nice write-up Peter. Just one clarification which was likely my fault for not being clear when we spoke, it wasn’t Monash (where I did my Exec MBA in 1996-98) who wanted to commercialize the technology, it was many people in the 80’s and early 90s including one group in Toronto who offered us a lot of money and to put our company on Nasdaq. We declined as we felt the technology had not been sufficiently proven in the 1980s and we didn’t want people to invest in something that didn’t have enough scientific support. Latterly, we did accrue the data and got 28 patents, but sold the ‘business’ as we wanted to focus on science and helping people rather than the business end of technology. For example, we donated the use of one of our strains for humanitarian work in Africa where I have had several projects looking at if and how probiotics might benefit people with HIV. My heart remains in the science and clinical application, but it is also rewarding hen women benefit from something we developed and let others take to the market.

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