Daniel Ramón Vidal: The Pro of ProbioticsInnovation
Like with any true scientist, for ADM’s Daniel Ramón Vidal, it all started as an experiment. Gut health, the microbiome and probiotics are making their way into the mainstream lexicon, but these terms are not new for Vidal, ADM’s distinguished research fellow for the microbiome. In fact, Vidal began studying the human microbiome more than 15 years ago – at a time when very few in the science community understood its potential.
“When I first began analyzing the microbiome, many of my colleagues in the industry were skeptical,” said Vidal. “But once we started to publish results on the important role of the gut microbiome, it changed their minds.”
An award-winning researcher, Vidal is a biologist by training and received a Ph.D. in biological sciences from the University of Valencia. Vidal’s post-doctoral work in the Industrial Microorganisms Section of the Genetics Department at Wageningen University of Agriculture in the Netherlands propelled him further into food science and technology. Upon returning to Spain, he was a professor of food technology at the University of Valencia and a research professor at the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). In 2003, Vidal founded a spin-off of the IATA – the biotechnology company Biopolis S.L. He then founded Lifesequencing S.L., which specializes in massive genome sequencing, in 2008.
“Biopolis started as an experiment, and to our surprise, it ended up being widely successful, with ADM acquiring both Biopolis and Lifesequencing in 2017,” said Vidal. “Three years after the creation of Biopolis, we began exploring the microbiome by investing in the first human genome sequencing platform to study microbial strains. It was an exhilarating time as we paved the way into new scientific discoveries.”
Vidal has garnered notable international recognition for his work, and his technological results are protected by 30 patent families covering more than 400 national and international patents, most of them transferred and in use. He has also published more than 160 articles in prestigious international journals. Most recently he received a NutraChampion Award for a lifetime of exceptional work in probiotic science and product development. Dubbed the “pro of probiotics,” Vidal pioneered novel model systems, including the specialized use of C. elegans worms, which have led to groundbreaking potential for metabolic, digestive and skin health1.
“My work continues at ADM, and each day there are new opportunities to enrich the quality of life by solving worldwide health and nutritional challenges through our microbiome sequencing research and probiotic formulations,” said Vidal. “This is why Biopolis was created – to blend science with product development so we can bring vital gut health solutions to the global community.”
People around the world are now increasingly aware of the connection between a healthy gut and their overall well-being. As such, many consumers are turning to probiotics, postbiotics and prebiotics to support a healthy digestive system, both in their foods and beverages and in supplements. ADM research shows that in the U.K., 52% of people not currently using probiotics would be interested in buying probiotic products in the future2. Plus, according to a Mintel report, more U.S. consumers are researching ‘biotics,’ with online searches for postbiotics, prebiotics and probiotics up by 91%, 83% and 41%, respectively3.
“Curiosity of the gut microbiome has exploded in both the scientific community and in the general public,” said Vidal. “People now have access to a library of information on gut health, probiotics and the microbiome. These topics are not just for scientists or medical professionals to consume. There’s also digestible reading for the everyday person. This is what is so exciting to me – We were at the beginning of this story, and we are getting more fascinating results each day that will help support people’s health and wellness needs and further fuel their interest.”
Vidal and the team have made great strides in providing microbiome solutions that can be easily incorporated into foods, beverages and supplements. For example, ADM’s award-winning BPL1 probiotic and its heat-treated counterpart, HT-BPL1, were developed specifically to target factors relevant to metabolic health and weight management4. As a postbiotic without living microorganisms, HT-BPL1 can be applied across many different applications, where probiotics won’t work, as it can withstand harsh processing conditions like pasteurization and high heat.
Looking ahead, Vidal anticipates critical research advancements regarding the gut-brain axis over the next five years. Information transfer from the gut to the brain can help support mental and emotional well-being. This is especially important as heightened stress and anxiety from COVID-19 continues to unfold. Additionally, Vidal points to progress in artificial intelligence helping to drive microbiome research forward.
“We’re on the cusp of many breakthroughs in the microbiome, gut-brain axis, probiotics and more,” said Vidal. “As we deepen our knowledge in the industry, it’s crucial that we also deepen the knowledge of consumers. We must do this by educating doctors, nutritionists and other thought leaders to ensure we support and communicate realistic expectations. The team and I at ADM are passionately committed to sharing accurate information and science-backed solutions for everyone to have a greater understanding of this vast space.”
Learn more about ADM’s microbiome solutions.
1Martorell P, Llopis, S, González N, et al, , Probiotic strain Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis CECT 8145 reduces fat content and modulates lipid metabolism and antioxidant response in Caenorhabditis elegans. J. Agric. Food Chem. 64: 3462-3467, (2016)
2ADM/Buzzback report – Microbiome Consumer Exploratory, 2021 3Mintel, Digestive Health, August 2019
4Pedret. Pedret A, Valls RM, Calderón-Pérez L, et al, Effects of daily consumption of the probiotic Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis CECT 8145 on anthropometric adiposity biomarkers in abdominally obese subjects: a randomized controlled trial, Int J Obes (Lond) 43(9):1863‐1868, (2019) doi:10.1038/s41366-018-0220-0