The heat-killed bacteria that has garnered interest is Lactococcus lactis strain Plasma (L. lactis strain Plasma / LC-plasma), trademarked IMMUSE.
Studies have shown that it could support the maintenance of the immune system by stimulating the plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), which are the commander-in-chief of the immune system.
At the moment, it has been used in a range of Foods with Function Claims (FFC) in Japan, including the firm’s very own brand iMUSE. Products containing IMMUSE can claim to maintain immune function.
The iMUSE branded products also took home the Immune Support Product of the Year in the recent NutraIngredients-Asia Awards 2022.
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia at Growth Asia Summit – an event organised by William Reed – the publisher of NutraIngredients-Asia, the firm revealed that there are plans to introduce IMMUSE into various South East Asia markets.
“We are glad and honoured to have won the award again, especially for immune function, which is extremely important under this circumstance when the pandemic is still ongoing. And so, we would like to distribute iMUSE / IMMUSE overseas,” Dr Daisuke Fujiwara, general manager said.
In the case of Vietnam, the company is seeing opportunities in the dairy category, with partnerships with major companies underway.
“The dairy sector is one of our targets for expanding the IMMUSE business in Vietnam.
“This is because we can easily combine IMMUSE with dairy products such as yogurt, and these companies are familiar with the idea of lactic acid bacteria,” Dr Shintaro Ichikawa, manager at the sales and marketing department, Kyowa Hakko Bio – the active pharmaceutical ingredient arm of Kirin said.
At the moment, iMUSE functional foods and drinks are already sold in Vietnam through local subsidiary Interfood Shareholding Company.
The first iMUSE product sold in Vietnam is a yogurt and lemon-flavoured functional probiotic beverage.
In addition, the company has entered into a partnership with Coca-Cola Japan to develop health drinks, despite being competitors in the beverage sector.
“We are collaborating with our competitors to collectively ‘activate’ the market for IMMUSE, such collaboration also showed their belief in our science,” Shintaro Hirano, business development lead, strategy department, health science division said.
Outside of Asia, there are also Slovakia and American companies using IMMUSE in their products.
The firm is also interested in introducing the ingredient into Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand, with application for halal-certification in Indonesia and Malaysia for IMMUSE underway.
Since starting the research on IMMUSE 14 years ago, the firm has completed 16 human clinical trials, with findings out in 31 publications, said Dr Fujiwara.
Since March, the firm has been conducting a two-week clinical trial on the effects of IMMUSE capsules on COVID-19 patients with Nagasaki University. This is also the first COVID-19 related clinical trial that the company is conducting.
In Japan, both live and dead bacteria are categorised as lactic acid bacteria, unlike many other countries where live bacteria are regulated as probiotics, while the regulations for postbiotics, or dead bacteria, remain unclear in various countries.
As such, the firm has to take note of the various regulatory requirements when marketing IMMUSE in the overseas markets, Dr Fujiwara pointed out.