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Using intellectual property to predict trends in personalized nutrition

Given the different technologies that are coming together for personalized nutrition, the most important future trend will be collaboration.

Personalized nutrition encompasses several different technologies and industries all coming together for the benefit of the health-conscious consumer as an individual rather than an anonymous customer. Many of the technologies are still in early stages, creating opportunities for collaboration and massive growth. To identify innovation trends in this area, first examine the different technologies that are associated with personalized nutrition, as well as different statistics to identify innovation trends. 

Patent and trademark application filings can be used as a proxy for innovation trends. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), patents strongly correlate to research and development (R&D) spending. These documents are also categorized according to subject matter and can be used to identify technology trends. However, patent applications will not identify inventions kept as a trade secret or inventions that are not patent eligible. Finally, patents applications are published 18 months after being filed, meaning there is an 18-month lag in the data. This lag can be very important for a fast-moving field such as personalized nutrition. 

This article focuses on patents and applications that include the terms “personalized nutrition,” “nutrigenomics” and/or “nutrigenetics.” Nutrigenomics describes the effects of nutrients on the genome, proteome and metabolome. Nutrigenomics is often combined with nutrigenetics, which elucidates the effect of genetic variation on the interaction between diet and disease. The number of patent applications that reference “personalized nutrition” and/or nutrigenomics/nutrigenetics continue to increase. Both terms were rarely, if ever, used before 2001. “Personalized nutrition” continues to be the more popular term as used in patent applications. 

Patent Applications Including Key Personalized Nutrition Terms, 2001-2016

chart 1

 Personalized nutrition could not be possible without the application of bioinformatics to assess the large volume of data from each individual consumer that is used to determine a specific nutritional intervention. Likewise, the ability to prepare, deliver and track personalized nutritional plans, including the recommendation of specific nutritional and nutraceutical products, has been made possible by ubiquitous expansion of the smartphone. Both trends are indicated in the expansion of patent applications that combine nutrition with computer-aided technologies and/or bioinformatics.

Patent Applications Including Computer-Aided Technologies or Bioinformatics, 2001-2016

chart 2

In addition to inventions filed at the various global patent offices, there are about 100,000 apps in the mobile health area that facilitate the monitoring of health-related statistics, physical activity, food and dietary intake (Healthcare Informatics Res. 2018;24(1):38-45). These apps often include personalized diet and exercise recommendations, as well as information tracking, food logs and reminders. The software may further be paired with hardware such as smartwatches and other monitoring devices to give real-time data into the personal health of individuals. However, studies indicate a lack of culturally tailored apps for populations with limited English skills and health literacy. Therefore, there is a great opportunity for expansion into underserved communities with regard to personalized nutrition apps. 

Predicting the Future 

While there are already great products and companies in the field of personalized nutrition, current innovations are only scratching the surface of its potential. Part of this limitation is the surprisingly small amount of information available to make correlations. Identifying correlations between biomarkers, including microbiome, genetic and epigenetic markers, and actionable nutritional interventions requires both computing power and data. Computing power continues to improve, particularly in the subfields of artificial intelligence (AI), such as machine learning. Improved AI algorithms will be able to identify trends in the data that would be impossible for the human mind. However, the AI must have a data set to analyze. 

This data is only beginning to be gathered. Between 2017 and 2018, more people were tested by consumer genetics companies than the previous four years combined, according to MIT Technology Review. There is also a need for more in-depth and diverse genetic data. For example, the direct-to-consumer genetics testing company 23andMe is providing free genetic testing to selected individuals in under-represented populations in order to diversify their database and boost genomic studies as part of its Global Genetics Project. National Institutes of Health’s “All of Us” research program is seeking to enroll 1 million volunteers who will represent the diversity of the United States population and gather both genetic and environmental data through mobile health devices. This diversity of data will allow for more impactful interventions for underserved communities and expansion to global markets. 

Given the different technologies that are coming together for personalized nutrition, the most important future trend will be collaboration. Personalized nutrition will require combining the expertise of biological testing companies, big data companies, and food and nutrition companies. Without food and nutrition companies to create and deliver healthy products, no amount of knowledge and correlation will achieve the potential health benefits to the global population.

Attorney Andreas Baltatzis is a director at KramerAmado PC, a boutique law firm specializing in intellectual property (IP). He represents a number of innovative nutritional supplement and nutraceutical companies that improve people’s lives every day. Baltatzis also helps companies prepare and implement IP strategies by obtaining patents and trademarks that protect their innovations and cash flow, as well as advising clients on successfully launching new products and brands.

Personalized Nutrition at SupplySide West

Learn more about intellectual property trends and the future of personalized nutrition from Andreas Baltatzis during the “Personalized Nutrition: Leveraging Technology and Big Data to Provide Actionable Insight and Effective Solutions” workshop on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 9 a.m. at SupplySide West in Las Vegas.

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