Nanotechnology ensures nutrient supplements actually deliver

Furthr Foundry Alumni Nicholas Deeney talks about his innovation that increases the body's absorption of nutrient supplements

According to the constant barrage of messages coming at us from advertisers, health gurus and big food companies, there are positive health benefits associated with adding supplements and fortified foods to our diets. In theory, this is so. In practice, not so much if these nutrients don’t reach the bloodstream, says Nicholas Deeney, founder of Biovit Technologies, whose company has developed a proprietary manufacturing process that maximises the absorption of nutrients into the body.

“Many nutrients demonstrate poor absorption rates and bioavailability and the amount of a nutrient that reaches the bloodstream is very low, sometimes as low as 1 per cent,” he says.

“If a nutrient cannot be well distributed around the body, it won’t have the positive effect we seek and will simply be flushed out. Incredibly, this is the case for many of the ‘desired’ nutrients and vitamins we think we’re getting when we buy health products.

“During my previous venture, Vita Botanica, a B2C CBD [cannabidoil] brand, it emerged that only approximately 10 per cent of the CBD we take (generally in drop form under the tongue) is absorbed by the body. The rest is excreted,” he adds.

“After speaking to over 40 manufacturers and realising there was no effective solution to this problem out there, I drew on my MSc studies in biotech on drug delivery systems to create one for CBD. After successfully doing so, I had my light-bulb moment: can I apply the same process to other poorly absorbed nutrients?

“The answer was yes, and I formed Biovit Technologies in November last year to bring our cutting-edge nanotechnology to market. With our process, nutrients can be absorbed by a factor of up to 70 when compared with these nutrients in their standard form.”

The company’s initial focus will be on nutrients with the lowest absorption rates. It will put the nutrient, for example a vitamin, through its process and what emerges at the other end is a highly concentrated liquid that can be added to food and drinks. Powder formulations will follow.

Biovit’s aim is to supply these raw nutrients to multinational corporations and manufacturers, such as Kerry Group and Danone, which will incorporate them into fortified foods, beverages and dietary supplements.

“This will help to create a more nutritionally dense end-product whether that’s a vitamin-enhanced juice, milk, smoothies, energy drinks or water. It’s a very competitive market but we believe our value proposition gives us the edge,” Deeney says.

“In my initial enthusiasm I thought I could cover every nutrient and serve every customer,” he adds. “In reality, it made sense to concentrate on those with the poorest absorption rates. For example, the popular ingredient curcumin has an absorption rate of only around 1 per cent.”

By the time he had his “light-bulb moment” Deeney had already spent over two years working on the process that now underpins Biovit’s technology.

His specific investment in the new business has been about €50,000 and Deeney has recently participated in Furthr Foundry’s pre-seed accelerator while his company has now been approved for pre-seed start-up funding by Enterprise Ireland. This will amount to €200,000 between EI’s contribution and matched funding from private investors.

Some of this funding is already in place and Deeney says securing investment has significantly increased the speed at which the end product can be commercialised.

Biovit is in the final stages of optimising its formulations and tweaking them for stability and shelf-life. The company is also preparing for a preclinical study, which will be carried out at Trinity College Dublin.

“The study will provide important independent validation and will demonstrate the superior absorption of our nutrients over competitors,” says Deeney, who is just beginning the process of recruiting his core team, starting with a food chemist. This will be followed by a hire with food industry experience. Market launch is slated for early in 2025.

By Olive Keogh of The Irish Times

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