We talked to Vicente Navarro López of Bioithas about the research center, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Vicente Navarro López: Up-to-date, we are very aware of the current situation and always following all the measures recommended by the Ministry of Health. I hope that the natural evolution of the infection and vaccines’ availability will change the scenario during the last 2021.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Bioithas.
Vicente Navarro López: I have dedicated part of my professional life to the investigation of the intestinal microbiota, specifically in dermatological diseases, including atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. In 2016 I conducted a clinical trial in children and reported that there was a deficit of a bacterium in the intestine in patients with atopic dermatitis, and if this bacteria was supplied through a probiotic, they improved. From there, the probiotic blend was licensed to some companies worldwide and is the most useful probiotic used as a coadjuvant treatment in this disease. I then saw the need to establish what today is Bioithas, a research center, where to develop probiotics and biomarkers. Bioithas was created in April 2017.
At the same time, I am a professor at the Universidad Católica San Antonio de Murcia and Director of the Chair of Infectious Diseases and Human Microbiota since 2018, in charge of approximately 23 students who are focusing their Ph.D. on these studies.
How does Bioithas innovate?
Vicente Navarro López: At Bioithas, we develop probiotic products, on the one hand, and we also develop disease biomarkers – specifically for multiple sclerosis and mouth cancer – thanks to the research we carry out on the microbiota.
These biomarkers are like kits where we observe the levels of some bacteria in a specific pathology and if these bacteria can condition a disease in a specific patient. In this way, we have an early diagnosis test to know how the patient will respond to treatment. These kits are made primarily for the hospital sector.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Vicente Navarro López: Some of our studies are developed in hospitals, so because of the pandemic, we had to change the in person visits for other ways to control patients.
Other studies continue with the presential visits, and they are made with all the recommended measures. In addition, we are now developing a clinical trial with a probiotic mixture in COVID-19 patients.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Vicente Navarro López: We are constantly making choices. First, we investigate a specific topic relating to microbiota and a specific disease. This process is long; we begin to search which bacteria can be used in some specific pathology and look for strains to help in the specific disease or symptoms.
We do clinical trials in humans, and if everything progresses, then we consider developing the probiotic or biomarker with those selected strains.
In the current situation, we have implemented teleworking and new technologies for the patient’s recruitment and the monitoring of the trial, and It has worked really well.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Bioithas in the future?
Vicente Navarro López: Calmly and adapting to changes and the situation.
Returning to the new technologies of the previous question, I believe that these methodologies can help to work in a more efficient way and collaborate in the internationalization of the company.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Vicente Navarro López: Our competitors are the large pharmaceutical laboratories that work with nutritional complements, specifically probiotics.
All Bioithas products are made up of carefully selected probiotic strains based on scientific results that we have conducted at Bioithas for many years. Thanks to these studies, we have identified which species are the most suitable for the treatment of each pathology.
» Clinical efficacy studies to obtain evidence and validate in humans the effect of probiotics, not only on the disease but also its correlation and consequences on the human microbiota.
» High medical and scientific rigor supports the product. This is the point that may differentiate us from our competitors. We do not know nutritional supplement companies that work doing this type of procedure.
» Publication of scientific articles in indexed medical journals with a high impact factor.
Your final thoughts?
Vicente Navarro López: Studying the effect of human microbiota on health and disease is one of the great challenges of the 21st century. It is almost unknown until now.
At Bioithas, as a research center founded only three years ago, we have rapidly evolved to be a center of innovation thanks to our research data used to develop new probiotic treatments and new diagnostic biomarkers rapidly.
COVID-19 has taught us in a traumatic way that we must adapt and face the unknown; this is the lesson that we draw from the main value of Bioithas: knowing our microbiota and knowing how to act to modulate it, using it as a new diagnostic and therapeutic target.