As Andre Prassinos worked his way down row after row of organic broccoli, pumpkins and onions in Don Pearson’s market garden, the conversation between the two men often turned to soil biology and by natural progression, gut biology.
It was here, among this fertile earth, that the idea for an ideal probiotic began to grow.
“About 11 years ago, my wife Heather decided to take an organic horticulture course at Lincoln University. There we met Don, our business partner to be, who was splitting his time between teaching and running his market garden,” says Andre.
Andre ended up helping Don on his farm for about six months, during which they had a conversation about what Don thought an effective probiotic product should look like.
“I thought that sounded like a business and BioBrew Ltd was born,” Andre says.
In 2010, Andre and Don began working with Industrial Research Limited, Callghan Innovation’s predecessor, and Lincoln University, on a research and development process that continues to this day.
This process brought validation in many different sectors of the animal health market until the company was eventually ready to launch a human probiotic, LiveBrew in 2018.
“The natural consequence of seeing how much our product helps is that you want to help more. Indeed, the human market is in an order of magnitude, larger than the animal market, so it is a reasonable business goal to head after that larger market,” says Andre.
“[The research] continued at Callaghan’s Gracefield campus to transfer the technology into a human health food grade environment.”
They currently manufacture LiveBrew at FoodBowl in Auckland, and Andre says they benefit greatly from the relationship it has with Callaghan Innovation.
“As FoodBowl is connected to Callaghan Innovation, it was very easy for us to move from a theoretical and lab framework, into a practical manufacturing framework.”
Before this, they spent some years improving the original prototype and increasing the viability of the product and the shelf-life.
“The next step after that was to take the manufacturing process that we had developed to transfer that into a food safety compliance process such as one might operate at FoodBowl,” says Andre.
“The nice thing about FoodBowl is that they’re set up with MPI. If you make something there you basically are already set up for exports. At FoodBowl we undertook our manufacturing process multiple times to make sure we had a stable and repeatable process.”
They are currently doing periodic manufacturing runs at Food Bowl which becomes their inventory until the next time they start the manufacturing process.
“Our products are fresh liquid probiotics and contain high numbers of lactobacilli and the beneficial metabolites produced by those microbes. What’s unique about ours is that it has a greater than seven-month shelf life in a product that does not require refrigeration prior to opening.”
LiveBrew is the only fresh probiotic product that guarantees the number of microbes present through-out the entire shelf-life.
“If you buy the probiotics that have been freeze dried, you’ll see big numbers on the labels but these numbers refer to the number of microbes present at the moment of manufacturing, not the number of microbes at the time of use. Those are radically different numbers,” says Andre.
“We use the word probiotic in a very narrow technical precise manner. Other people use it to mean, a little bit buggy, so we have to educate the market.
“We want to work with scientists, nutritionists and health professionals in the prescribing area to sell this product. To that end we are finishing off a trial with Lincoln University with some help from the University of Otago Medical School in Christchurch. We’re looking for opportunities to collaborate with people who are helping folks with serious problems.
“We’re trying to offer a very credible, very clearly defined, technically presented microbial tool and we solve problems.”