When chocolate’s not enough
July 2011
by Kimberley Sirk  |  Email the author

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LUTRY, Switzerland—Nestlé Health Science SA purchased San Diego's Prometheus Laboratories Inc. in late May as the Swiss food giant seeks to enter the space where food companies and drug companies meet, but do not quite intersect.
 
Prometheus, which was founded in 1995 and was actively looking for new owners, specializes in diagnostics and in-licensed specialty pharmaceuticals in gastroenterology and oncology, focusing on conditions such as inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
 
Nestlé SA first entered the healthcare nutrition field in 1986. It announced last September the creation of Nestlé Health Science and the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences to pioneer a new industry between food and pharma.
 
These two separate organizations will allow Nestlé to delve into the burgeoning domain of personalized health science nutrition, which seeks to prevent and treat health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer's disease, based largely on patient characteristics.
 
Nestlé Health Science, a wholly owned subsidiary of Nestlé, launched Jan. 1. The new company will be run at arm's length from Nestlé's main food, beverages and nutrition activities, and incorporates the existing global Nestlé HealthCare Nutrition business. Nestlé Health Science will also have access to external scientific and technological capacity through Nestlé's innovation network, as well as a number of venture capital funds in which the group has interests.
 
The Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences is part of Nestlé's global R&D network. The institute conducts research in relevant areas of biomedical science to translate this knowledge into nutritional strategies to improve health and longevity. The institute is based in the multi-disciplinary scientific environment of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, where Nestlé is already involved in two life-science initiatives. According to a statement by Nestlé Health Science, whose representatives did not respond to a request for an interview, Prometheus' capabilities strongly support Nestlé Health Science's ambition of pioneering science-based nutritional solutions to deliver improved personalized healthcare.
 
Luis Cantarell, Nestlé Health Science's president and CEO, said in a prepared statement that the purchase successfully moves the company into a strategic position within the gastrointestinal diagnostics space.
 
"Prometheus' leading-edge diagnostics and highly experienced medical sales representatives together constitute a robust platform for Nestlé Health Science to accelerate its current and future healthcare business," Cantarell said. "It will enable new personalized healthcare solutions based on diagnostics, pharma and nutrition."
 
For its part, Prometheus reps look forward to sealing the deal, which will transpire after the normal regulatory process, and moving on to support the work of the recently created Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences.
 
"The new health science subsidiary of Nestlé is looking to operate within the white space between where drug companies stop and where food companies stop," says Mark Spring, Prometheus' senior vice president of finance and chief financial officer. "We have capabilities in the gastrointestinal diagnostic space that Nestlé was very interested in—our diagnostic platform, and our market position in the gastro space."
 
Prometheus's strong expertise and R&D in gastrointestinal diagnostics will accelerate the research program that is being established in the newly created Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences. It will create new opportunities for developing personalized nutrition strategies that will help in the management and prevention of chronic health conditions. The R&D pipeline will encompass other areas of strategic interest for Nestlé Health Science, such as metabolic conditions and brain health.
 
Joseph M. Limber, Prometheus' president and CEO, indicated in a prepared statement that he is pleased to see his company evolve in this way.
 
"We are delighted to join Nestlé Health Science, and share their commitment to personalized healthcare," he stated. "Together, we will accelerate the development of our innovative diagnostic platforms for gastroenterology and oncology. We intend to leverage Nestlé Health Science's products and geographic presence to add the nutritional dimension to our successful business model."
 
About 500 employees of Prometheus will join Nestlé Health Science as a result of the acquisition.
 
Spring says the two companies are now in the process of integration planning, with the deal expected to close in July. He says Prometheus will retain its individual identity and its own autonomy in its operations.
 
"We see ahead continued growth," Spring concludes. "Our joint perspective is that we'll see that growth as we move ahead and foresee continued revenue synergies working with Nestlé and its nutritional division in the future."
Code: E071112

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