A new company, Before Brands, hoping to prevent food allergies in children before they develop, was launched yesterday with $13.1 million in funding from biotech and food companies alike. Biotech billionaire Ernesto Bertarelli, leader of Gurnet Point Capital, Anne Wojcicki, 23andMe cofounder, and Kind Snacks founder Daniel Lubetzky, were just some of the investors.
Before Brands’ main goal will be to create products aimed at preventing kids from developing allergies. While it’s unclear exactly what types of products will be released by the company, edible and topical products are two possibilities.
“We’re taking a very holistic view on how we can deliver science-based value to parents,” said Before Brands CEO Ashley Dombkowski in an interview with Forbes. The company will likely apply the theory that exposure to a potential allergen early in life could prevent the ingredient from becoming a problem later on.
According to the theory, parents who refrain from exposing their child to a common allergen such as peanuts, could actually be increasing their chance of having a heightened immune system response to the nut as they grow older. Known as the “hygiene hypothesis”, this theory states that if your immune system is never presented with a particular challenge, it never has the chance to develop a tolerance to it.
Kari Nadeau, one of Before Brands’ cofounders and the director of Stanford’s new Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research, believes that the hygiene hypothesis holds up in the case of food allergies. Based on her clinical research on the effects of both environmental and genetic factors in the development of food allergies, Before Brands “aligns with independently generated evidence in support of ‘early and often’ introduction of typical allergenic foods, like peanut and egg, in infant diets.”
Before Brands’ products are set to be designed for children six months and older, which is the age most kids begin to eat solid foods. Like many other new products in the food space, the company’s target market will be millennial parents.
“The science of nutrition is really exploding–there were six times more studies in 2015 than there were in 2000,” said Greg Horn, CEO of Specialty Nutrition Group and an advisor to Before Brands. “It’s bringing science to people in the form of products that they can apply to their daily lives and benefit from.”
As nutritional supplements are regulated less-tightly than pharmaceuticals, the company has seen substantial investment from those in the healthcare space. To further promote their company, Before Brands plans to attend the American Academy of Pediatrics annual meeting later this month, to convince doctors of their products’ value at preventing childhood food allergies.