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Health Technology Assessment (HTA)
Health Technology Assessment (HTA) 
May 27, 2024 / Healthcare system

Health Technology Assessment (HTA) is a multidisciplinary approach to evaluate new health technologies, such as drugs, medical devices, and prevention methods, assessing their effectiveness compared with an existing alternative. It gathers information to analyze the current and potential impact of a technology, as well as the consequences of its introduction or exclusion on the healthcare system. (Health technology assessment - Governance tecnologica per la sanità a cura di Davide Croce prefazione di Ranieri Guerra).

Through a systematic evaluation process, HTA assesses nine different domains, covering clinical aspects such as health problems, technology use, technical specifications, safety, and clinical effectiveness, as well as non-clinical factors such as cost-effectiveness, ethical considerations, organizational, social, and legal aspects.

At the level of public health services, it helps to assess the effectiveness, safety and costs of different treatment and intervention options, providing policy makers with evidence-based information to enable optimal resource allocation, improve the efficiency of health services and meet the growing demand for innovation in health care. HTA is also useful in the corporate environment, where it can be used to evaluate the introduction of new drugs or medical technologies, analyse their benefits and costs, and improve the management of the company's financial resources. In addition, it can also be crucial in clinical practice, helping clinicians to develop evidence-based guidelines and protocols that ensure effective and personalised treatments for patients. (La valutazione delle tecnologie sanitarie – una guida pratica per le aziende sanitarie. A cura di Marco Marchetti: Americo Cicchetti).

Consorzio Italbiotec actively participates in the HTA scenario, conducting studies on innovative medical technologies across various funded projects. These initiatives focus on developing new molecules with pharmacological properties tailored for the oncology sector. Such engagement underscores Italbiotec's commitment and interest in HTA, thus contributing to the objective and well-informed assessment of medical advancements.

Overall, HTA is playing an increasingly important role in supporting the introduction and management of new health technologies by providing a comprehensive and objective picture of performance, cost and health impact, ensuring that resources are used efficiently to meet the ever-increasing needs of society.

By Ilaria Spreafico

BIO4RESILIENCE: Strategies for a Circular Lombardy
Strategies for a Circular Lombardy
Dec 14, 2023 / Sustainable Development 

The "BIO4RESILIENCE" supply chain was established in 2022 by Lombard companies aiming to create a virtuous system to foster innovation in the organic waste sector, thereby contributing to development and value creation in Lombardy. Its objective? To establish a robust territorial and intersectoral ecosystem dedicated to innovating organic waste management. At the core of this initiative lies the promotion of interconnections among companies, pooling efforts to expedite the development of solutions fostering economic circularity and sustainability. This initiative has been carried out thanks to the measure implemented by the Lombardy Region, known as the "Expression of Interest for the Development and Consolidation of Production and Service Chains and Productive and Economic Industrial Ecosystems in Lombardy", intended to facilitate collaboration among companies, research institutions, training entities, financial intermediaries, foundations, and other pivotal contributors to economic and territorial development.

The supply chain is spearheaded by the company Acqua & Sole and encompasses 24 participants representing the entire spectrum of production, recovery, and valorization of organic waste. This includes biomethane and renewable energy production, alongside the utilization of waste as fertilizing matrices in agronomic field. The supply chain's activities concentrate on sustainability and circularity, manifesting in tangible ways such as eco-design interventions to curtail atmospheric emissions, the utilization of renewable energy and alternative raw materials, the augmentation of an integrated approach to waste recovery, and the conceptualization of "industrial symbiosis" projects facilitating the reuse and utilization of recycled materials.

A fundamental pillar of this initiative is the RINNOVA project, born from the call for "Innovation of processes and organization of production and service chains and productive and economic industrial ecosystems in Lombardy." This project, initiated in February 2023, represents a pivotal initiative aimed at advancing the strategic objectives of BIO4RESILIENCE and aligning with European legislation on the circular economy. Several companies are engaged in the project, namely: Acqua e Sole, Arcadia, Evergreen Italia, Agrorisorse, CAP Holding, Biomet, Lyceum, Vegea, BioC-CheM Solutions, and Bio Hub. This ambitious and interconnected project marks a substantial stride towards a sustainable and innovative industrial future in Lombardy, showcasing the convergence of collaboration and innovation for the collective good.

by Marta Buccaro

Actions to allow the planet to breathe
Actions to allow the planet to breathe  
Sept 21, 2023 / Zero Emissions Day 

How would look like a planet without the release of fossil fuels?

Zero Emissions Day is a single day to raise awareness of the impact of our daily emissions, which are gases and particles emitted by electricity, agriculture, or transportation.
We need to try to limit emissions, as they are causing climate change, air pollution, extreme weather events, and more. Moreover, they not only have negative effects on the environment but also human health. During COVID lockdowns, a global shutdown of human activity allowed air pollution to lower drastically, highlighting how is it important real actions.
The public needs to be made aware of the need for cleaner energy sources compared to fossil fuels and to encourage individuals and businesses to do their part to protect the environment. This day is a great opportunity to remind you that we all have a role to play in protecting our planet and to think about how everyone can collaborate to reduce negative carbon emissions - towards a future of environmental sustainability.

Consorzio Italbiotec seeks to contribute to this mission by participating in numerous projects at the national and European levels, which strive to achieve a shift towards greater sustainability and lower environmental impact in different sectors.

FuturEnzyme [https://www.futurenzyme.eu/] is a European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme-funded project that will directly address the nowadays challenges. The new “smart” enzymes that will be implemented by screening and design in the project can help to improve real-life consumer products to become greener, more innovative, and more functional products that have the least impact on the environment and higher acceptance by consumers. It is well known that consumer products are generally characterized by a high environmental impact contributing to 60% of greenhouse gas emissions.

NUTRI2CYCLE [https://www.nutri2cycle.eu/] is a European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme-funded project that interacts with all the actors influencing nutrient cycles to create more efficient and sustainable agricultural business models, disseminates results at the regional, national, and European, and evaluating how the products obtained can target labeling and reach end-users. Finally, the project provides scientific support on effective regulatory frameworks to reduce emissions and increase Europe's self-sufficiency for food, energy, and nutrients in the next century.

The REACTIVE [https://www.italbiotec.it/Reactive.html#Reactive] project funded by the Lombardy Region has as the main objective to incentivize the wine sector to adopt good sustainability practices aimed at conserving the organic matter of the soils, reducing CO2 emissions while preserving production and quality. In line with this strategic purpose, the project aims to disseminate good sustainability practices in viticulture focused on reducing CO2 emissions and carbon sequestration in the soils planted with vines.

These are just some of the projects where the issue of carbon footprint reduction is at the forefront, showing how actively this issue needs to be addressed.

It’s about small steps, but by working together we can make a difference!

by Maria Elena Saija

The environmental and bioeconomy potential of industrial hemp
The environmental and bioeconomy potential of industrial hemp 
June 20, 2023 / Hemp potential in bioeconomy 

Industrial hemp (Cannabis Sativa L.) is a renewable organic raw material capable of replacing fossil resources in many sectors and industries, playing a crucial role in achieving the carbon neutrality objectives of the Green Deal strategy.

First, hemp fibers – with their antioxidant and antimicrobial properties - can be used in the textile industry, producing ecological high-quality fabrics, as it does not require a big amount of land for cultivation, pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, and consumes much less water than other plants (Crini G. et al, 2020). Hemp fibers are also used to make eco-friendly paper with strong resistance and high flexibility: one hectare of hemp can produce 3-4 times more paper than the same area of trees, being a promising alternative source of cellulose (Tutek K. et al, 2022).

Furthermore, hemp is an environmentally friendly building material with good insulation properties, resistance and is almost 100% recyclable, and it has high biomass and energy yields per hectare, allowing bioenergy production (i.e., biodiesel, bioethanol, biomethane) (Crini G. et al, 2020; Moscariello C. et al, 2021).

Another promising application is in the cosmetics industry: hemp oil is a good alternative to the chemicals used in many lotions and cosmetics and hemp flowers and leaves contain essential oils that can be also used in perfumes, soaps and candles.

Most well-known applications are in the food industry (hemp seeds, oil and sprouts represent a valuable source of different nutrients), in the animal feed industry (high protein and energy contents) and in the medicine sector (CBD is widely used for therapeutic reasons, such as treating anxiety and depression, stress relief, diabetes prevention, pain relief, cancer symptom relief and inflammation) (Crini G. et al, 2020; Cerino P. et al, 2021).

Finally, hemp can play an important role in environmental protection. This crop is an annual plant, and it can absorb approximately 10t of CO2 from the atmosphere during one vegetation period, improving air quality and thermal balance, and ensuring a positive environmental impact. The additional benefits of hemp growing are the suppression of weed growth, anti-erosion, reclamation properties and the ability to drain the soil of poisonous substances and heavy metals (Moscariello C. et al, 2021).

The huge potential of this crop is recognized by the HempClub project (https://hempclubproject.com/), an EU COSME project bringing together 7 clusters and associations operating in the bioeconomy, mechatronics, green chemistry, and hemp production. The project works to unlock the potential of hemp by creating EU value chains for biobased applications and new business opportunities for primary producers and chemical companies. The final objective is to promote collaboration, synchronized strategies and encourages innovative interregional investments.

by Maria Elena Saija

On Earth Day, more eyes on Alpine forests
On Earth Day, more eyes on Alpine forests 
April 22, 2023 / Earth Day 2023 

Earth Day, celebrated annually one month and two days after the vernal equinox, is the largest environmental event in the world, as well as the only time when all citizens come together to celebrate the planet and promote their preservation. The idea of establishing Earth Day, born in 1970, came from US Senator Gaylord Nelson who was inspired by the demonstrations against the war in Vietnam to create a large environmental protest on a national scale. [ Eart Day Official Site: https://www.earthday.org/history/]

During this day, recurring on April 22, the need for the conservation of the Earth's natural resources is underlined, also becoming an opportunity to raise public awareness and evaluate the problems of the planet: the pollution of air, water and soil, the destruction of ecosystems, the thousands of plant and animal species disappearing, and the depletion of non-renewable resources. Solutions are insisted on which make it possible to eliminate the negative effects of human activities, for example by recycling materials, conserving natural resources such as oil and fossil gas or banning the use of harmful chemicals.

The Earth Day 2023 theme is focused on engaging people, governments, institutions, and businesses to recognize our collective responsibility also in the restoration of ecosystems which includes actions such as reforestation, rewilding, the reconstruction of natural infrastructures and coral restoration. In this perspective, it’s time that businesses take forest conservation seriously and take an active role in replenishing the natural resources that have been lost over time.

This environmental issue also affects the forests of the Alpine space, which are threatened by rural abandonment, climate change and territorial degradation that progressively lead to a pauperisation of natural resources and consequently to a decrease in the provision of forest ecosystem services.

Prominent among international-scale initiatives committed to safeguarding forest health is the Forest EcoValue project which, co-financed by the Interreg Alpine Space Programme, aims to promote the development of innovative, sustainable and win-win business models for the management and maintenance of Alpine space forests, based on green supply chains and the involvement of different sectors (energy, construction, chemical/pharmaceutical, food, recreation, etc.) and public and private actors, as well as citizens. All in all, the project will propose new frameworks to address public-private markets and payment schemes and maximise the value of forest ecosystem services towards regional value chains. The project will focus on a subset of ecosystem services: provisioning (e.g. the production of biomass, raw materials and bio-based chemicals), regulating & maintenance (e.g. safeguarding biodiversity, reducing natural risks and sequestrating CO2) and cultural (e.g. recreation, habitat experience and human health). [Forest EcoValue website available online https://www.alpine-space.eu/project/forest-ecovalue/ ]

by Marta Buccaro

Innovative approaches to tumor research and treatment: the MESSENGER project
Innovative approaches to tumor research and treatment: the MESSENGER project 
April 7, 2023 / Trend in Medicine 

Breast cancer continues to be a significant health issue in Italy, with 55.700 new cases being diagnosed in 2022 alone (https://www.aiom.it/i-numeri-del-cancro-in-italia/). Unfortunately, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Italian women, causing approximately 13.000 deaths per year (Mangone et al., 2022). While environmental factors play a role in the development of this disease, there is also a genetic susceptibility associated with a mutation in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, which is responsible for 5-10% of all breast cancer cases (https://www.humanitas.it/malattie/tumore-della-mammella/).

One specific type of breast cancer that requires particular attention is Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC). The most peculiar characteristic of TNBC is that it is clinically negative for expression of estrogen and progesterone receptors (ER/PR) and HER2 protein, that represent the molecular targets of the most innovative drugs available today against breast cancer.
The lack of these proteins leaves chemotherapy as the only viable treatment option, often used in combination with immunological therapy to achieve the best possible outcome. This calls for the development of patient-specific therapies able to improve the perspectives of care for many women.

In this context is placed the MESSENGER project, funded by Lazio Innova and coordinated by the Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology of the National Research Council, with the overall aim of validating a model for generating patient-specific human tissues in vitro. The methodology is based on the use of cells isolated from breast cancer biopsies and inserted in a tridimensional construct in order to emulate the physiopathological environment of the patient from which the tumor was excised.

Focusing on TNBC, MESSENGER aims to validate new technological solutions to recreate the tridimensional tumor environment in vitro, in order to study the interactions between the tumor and its environment (tECM). In this scenario, the project allowed to demonstrate the existence of specific factors in tumor associated macrophages (TAMs) that affects the stiffness of tECM (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35887248/), thus highlighting a new mechanism counterbalanced between physical factors and a new perspective of mechano-pathology to be targeted in breast cancer.  

Gene editing for climate-resilient corn
Gene editing for climate-resilient corn 
March 23, 2023 / Biotech in corn 

Since its domestication some 9,000 years ago, maize has played an increasing and diverse role in global agri-food systems.
It is consider the leading cereal not only for the few resources used for its cultivation and the high biomass obtained, but also for the versatile nature that makes it suitable for the production of feed, food and biofuels.
Nevertheless, the recent natural disasters caused by the climate change, such as floods, tropical storms, long periods of drought and new pests, are threatening the global cultivation and productivity of this commodity (Thudi et al., 2021b).

For all the reasons mentioned, there is an urgent need to develop strategies able to face these obstacles, increase resistance and improve agricultural sustainability while reducing the inputs required.
Among all the technical advances in the agricultural sector, the genetic modification of plant varieties is the most promising as it can be used for nutrient fortification, tolerance to drought, herbicides, diseases, or pests, and for higher yields. (Unctad, 2030)

The technologies used to improve corn resistance include marker assisted breeding with SNPs, double haploid breeding for crossing species and transgenesis (Huffman, 2009).
Particularly transgenesis, the direct insertion of target genetic material from unrelated organisms, confers several benefits and can be performed exploiting different methods for the delivery of the transgene.
Most of these technologies are based on the creation of double-strand breaks (DSBs) to trigger DNA repair mechanisms as error-prone non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) or error-free homology-directed repair (HDR) (Zhu et al., n.d.). While, between the numerous strategies available for the delivery, the preferred are: biolistic gun or DNA-coated microcarriers, transformation with Agrobacterium tumefaciens and CRISPR- Cas technology.

But also RNAi can be an effective mean to regulate endogenous gene expression in maize, conferring desired properties. This approach involves designing a transgenic construct that creates a double stranded RNA (dsRNA) upon transcription and introducing the transgene into maize plants. (Walker, n.d.).
Some of these varieties, produced by the main companies of the sector as Syngenta, Bayer and DuPont Pioneer, are already on the market and are successfully exploited by numerous farmers.

In conclusion, to cope with climate change, is necessary to modify production practices by planting more climate-resilient corn. And improvements of genetic techniques in the biotech sector provide a promising tool to achieve this result.

Also Italbiotec is actively involved in the field, by supporting, with the project GEMMA, the development of new improved varieties more sustainable and resistant to climate changes.

by Anna Barriviera

cosmetics industry towards sustainable formulations
The cosmetics industry towards sustainable formulations 
January 23, 2023 / enzymes 

Thanks to the replacement or integration of chemical processes with more innovative processes that involve the use of smaller quantities of organic solvents, which are often toxic to the environment and to humans, there is in fact a reduction in the production of waste and in the consumption of quantities of water and energy [Sito Web FuturEnzyme Available online: https://www.futurenzyme.eu].
The production of environmentally friendly ingredients represents one of the main challenges of the cosmetics industry that could find a beneficial ally in isolated enzymes and cellular organisms especially when combined with the use of renewable, recyclable or waste raw materials [Heath, R.S et. All; The Beauty of Biocatalysis: Sustainable Synthesis of Ingredients in Cosmetics]. Indeed, their use to produce active ingredients in cosmetics could reduce the environmental impact by 50-100% [Manuel Ferrer et. All; The Use of Enzymes to Achieve More Sustainable Everyday Consumer Products. Ambient].
Besides being components of the cosmetic product formulation itself, enzymes can also be used in the production process of cosmetic ingredients, generally replacing polluting and energy-consuming chemical processes. Specific enzymes could replace the chemical catalyst, improving yields and reducing the production of by-products and waste [Jegannathan, K.R. et. All; Environmental Assessment of Enzyme Use in Industrial Production-a Literature Review].

For example, the use of lipases for the production of 'emollient esters', substances used in cosmetics for their emollient and moisturizing properties, saves energy and raw materials and generates less waste, as lipase acts specifically at low temperatures [Jegannathan, K.R. et. All; Environmental Assessment of Enzyme Use in Industrial Production-a Literature Review]. Another important enzyme is hyaluronidase, which is used for the natural neutralization of hyaluronic acid used as a dermal filler and for its anti-ageing and moisturising properties [Sunar, K. et. All Recent Applications of Enzymes in Personal Care Products]. However, to use it, it needs to be reduced in its dimensions; an operation that requires a large expenditure of energy.

To overcome the limitations of enzyme activities and the need for new enzymes capable of catalysing new reactions, new methodologies are being investigated. For example, nanotechnology makes possible the development of more effective cosmetics, because the reduced particle size allows the product to be easily absorbed by the skin and to have a longer-lasting effect.
The introduction of enzymes in the production of cosmetics, which can operate in milder conditions, leads to significant savings in resources, such as energy and water, and less waste and pollution, benefiting both the industry and the environment. In a world with a rapidly increasing population, which sees the beginning of the depletion of many natural resources, and an increasing awareness and sensitivity of consumers and manufacturers towards greener products, enzyme technology offers great potential for many industries to address possible future challenges [Kirk, O. et. All; Industrial Enzyme Applications].

by Cecilia Ceccherini

New biotech advances for personalised and precision medicine
New biotech advances for personalised and precision medicine 
Dec 2, 2022 / Trend in medicine 

Biotechnologies have overcome knowledge and technology gaps in various areas in the last decade, from agrochemistry, advanced materials and bio-based energies to life sciences. Human health and well-being enjoy new advances, and we can speak, for example, of precision and personalised medicine.

What is this kind of medicine? What kind of impact does it produce? Precision medicine is a way healthcare providers can deliver and plan specific treatments for their patients, based on genes, proteins and other substances (American Cancer Society). The increase of diseases in oncology, immunology and neurology leads to an increased need for innovative, faster, more effective treatments.

The precision medicine approach can be used to evaluate and treat different application areas such as immunology, respiratory disorders, oncology, central nervous system (CNS) and other diseases. Oncology is currently the main application area of precision medicine. Researchers, healthcare professionals and large pharmaceutical and biotech companies are working to identify new therapeutic options for patient well-being. The growing awareness of the benefits of personalised medicine is also one of the key factors in the growth of precision medicine, genomics and proteomics technologies. Precision medicine involves the analysis or specific indications for specific drugs in a particular patient, is an essential part of individualised treatment regimens for many chronic diseases and conditions (Biospace).

In 2017, the global precision medicine market generated nearly US$49 billion. Until 2026 it is estimated that it will increase to more than 140 billion dollars (Matej Mikulic, Oct 19, 2021) For biotech companies, this new landscape holds tremendous promise for innovation in biotech company medicines, new drug delivery technologies, and engineered cell or gene therapies. Biotech companies can often be nimble and flexible, sometimes giving them an edge over their larger pharmaceutical counterparts. Indeed, the most critical and innovative new therapies for rare and untreated diseases are in the biotech pipeline (Biophamadive).

Thanks to our experience in innovation, Italbiotec can help you develop your technology with services such as market analysis, stakeholder analysis, founding raising, project writing and the health technology assessment (HTA)! HTA, useful for a preliminary assessment of technology, collects information on medical, economic, social and ethical issues related to the use of certain health technologies.

by Cecilia Ceccherini

Digital transformation in Biotech
Digital transformation in Biotech 
Nov 8, 2022 / AI revolution 

Digital transformation in biotech integrates digital technology into all manufacturing dimensions, optimising operations and generating value. The implementation of biotech digital transformation represents a cultural, operational and corporate governance change with the extraordinary power to increase biotech’s competitive potential in facing the market challenges by innovating to differentiate itself.
In 2021 the economic impact of digitalisation in key verticals, such as manufacturing, agriculture, transport, and retail, is estimated to reach 193 billion U.S. dollars in 2025 and to grow to more than 500 billion dollars by 2030 (Statista|2022).

Which of the following aspects are going to change in your company in the coming years with the arrival of new technologies, digitalisation and artificial intelligence?
Since 2020 Italian companies have experienced a wide range of improvements in incorporating new digital and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in their processes. Thanks to AI, an expected improvement in corporate welfare was declared by around 89% of them (Statista|Research Department). The introduction of new technologies in industry sector has permitted to obtain greater control over processes and production chains and a significant increase in productivity and safety.

In the biotech industry, digitalization could help evaluate customer’s needs and requirements and track product performance considering a simultaneous plurality of factors that can influence the market uptake and competitiveness of products and services. The use of big data could support feasibility assessments and strategic and predictive analysis of investment in facilities, laboratories, equipment, and operations. By unlocking the full potential of data by capturing, structuring, connecting, and analysing these across process development, efficiencies in technology transfers, process validation, operational readiness and manufacturing deviations troubleshooting can be gained (Enabling Digital Transformation in Biotech| Phillip R. Smith, PhD Michelangelo Canzoneri). In addition to these advantages, many emerging biotech solutions in different stages could experience an acceleration towards market exploitation from drug discovery to genomics and proteomics applications, bringing order out of the numerous data already available.

Digitalisation could support the implementation of the supply chain close to the market: the industry can introduce digital therapeutics, novel delivery devices, digital marketing, and digital supply chain (Frost & Sullivan). Considering the high innovation that digitalisation could bring to industries, what challenges do we still face? We need to focus on infrastructure setup, integrating new IT systems & updating existing systems, and implementing data sharing and data management, cybersecurity and regulations.

Italbiotec supports the Digital transformation in biotech, opening the way for innovations. We can support you on this new journey with our skills!

by Cecilia Ceccherini

Probiotics: how they work and evaluate the effectiveness
Probiotics: how they work and evaluate the effectiveness 
Sept 30, 2022 / Trends in nutraceuticals 

With a value of 1.1 billion US dollars in 2020, the global market for probiotic supplements for gastrointestinal health is set to establish itself as one of the fastest growing ones, reaching 2.1 billion US dollars by 2027 (Nils-Gerrit Wunsch, Jun 29, 2022-Statista).
Probiotics are live and active microorganisms in specific products such as supplements or foods capable of performing a beneficial effect on human health, thanks to the antagonism towards pathogenic microorganisms and the production of antimicrobial substances, strengthening the intestinal ecosystem.

Several studies have demonstrated the ability of probiotic supplements to mitigate dysfunction of the microbiota, the complex and varied set of living organisms colonising the intestinal system carrying out numerous physiological functions. It is a system characterised by great complexity and variability: the gut microbiota of a single individual is, on average, 90% Firmicutes and 10% Actinobacteria, as well as 160 different species of bacteria, at least 75% are present in 50% of the population (Hellas Cena, Ilaria Di Napoli, 2019).

Despite a common microbiota, some variability between individuals and bacteria strains is demonstrated. When the microbiota produces harmful effects on the host’s health, we speak of dysbiosis manifested with alterations in the composition, diversity, distribution and metabolic activity.

Although their value has been widely demonstrated, decision-making processes patient-specific for probiotics administration are not always supported by quantitative and qualitative efficacy assessments, hampering their potential clinical support. The bacteria’s strains selection treating specific symptoms and improper patient intake are further factors that hinder a wider use of probiotics. Numerous strains with positive functions in mitigating some dysbiosis symptoms, the clinic has a limited amount of helpful information to discriminate the most efficient strains; therefore, the administration of the probiotic takes place according to efficacy criteria not supported by analysis and systematic screening.

In recent Italbiotec’s study Evaluating the Efficacy of Probiotics in IBS Treatment Using a Systematic Review of Clinical Trials and Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (Ceccherini C, 2022), the problems related to the effectiveness of probiotics and the search for a method able to objectively evaluate the beneficial effects in improving the symptomatology of dysbiosis were addressed.

The answers were obtained using the MCDA method. This method has allowed the classification of the most effective strains in combination, based on the improvement of the primary and secondary effects related to their administration and providing research perspectives in the field of probiotics. The application of MCDA has the advantage of being an ex-ante decision-making tool alongside clinical research trials – for selecting the most effective strains in pharmacological treatment.

by Cecilia Ceccherini

Innovation in food supplements: towards sustainable routes
Innovation in food supplements: towards sustainable routes
July 15, 2022 / Back to nature wave  

With a value of 137 billion US dollars in 2021, the global nutraceuticals market is set for resounding growth, doomed to reach 185.1 billion by 2025 and 239.4 billion US dollars by 2028 (Statista; Adroit Market Research). The COVID-19 pandemic has played a role in driving unprecedented demand, fueled by the search for several vitamins and minerals potentially helpful in strengthening the immune system (National Institutes of Health) and improving mental well-being debilitated by lockdowns and heavy social contact restrictions.
With demand growth and greater consumer attention to sustainable, safe, natural products, the production and research of new formulations are expanding, increasing global revenues.
Not only the vitamins but also plant-based supplements and botanical extracts active as health promotors enjoy the popular consideration of "naturalness" and lead a "back to nature" wave, boosting a global market of 5.05 billion US dollars in 2021.

The green transition of nutraceuticals represents a challenge and a great business opportunity for the formulations market aimed at guaranteeing the highest safety and quality standards with the lowest environmental impact. However, for plant-based products, numerous alternative biomasses, extraction and processing processes are available, factors that can significantly influence the efficiency of the supply chain.
The instability of raw material costs and affordable access to biomass are finally conditions crucial to defining a business model feasibility.

What tools can be exploited for the development of feasibility studies? Among the most effective ones, the Multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) is a methodological approach that allows you to make complex choices in the presence of alternative options.

In the botanical extracts sector, a recent Italbiotec research study (Borroni M et al., 2021) focused on chlorogenic acid (CGA) and inulin, compounds with a current and predicted compound annual growth rate (CAGR) (up to 2027) of 3.44% and 4% (Absolute Reports). Capable of having beneficial interactions with human metabolisms, such as antioxidant, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, and anti-obesity activity, these molecules can be derived from green coffee and chicory. New ways to reduce the environmental impact of these compounds are possible by evaluating cardoon as a possible alternative and promising raw material for the extraction of CGA and inulin, thanks to the high concentration, low-input growth regime and the possibility of being cultivated on marginal land.

The MCDA method evaluates the performance of different biomass, comparing the most significant impact criteria to obtain botanical extracts and ranking the most sustainable ones. It is, therefore, a valuable tool in evaluating business performance and supporting decision-making processes for designing more sustainable and competitive products.

by Cecilia Ceccherini

Enzymes: driving our products towards a more sustainable future.
Enzymes: driving our products towards a more sustainable future. 
June 14, 2022 / Advances in technology 

Every year four-members family in Europe consumes on average 16-20 kg of detergent, 30 kg of textiles and 1 kg of cosmetics. By 2030 these figures are expected to grow at an annual rate of 4.8-6.3%, with related environmental impacts on pollution and water consumption, waste generation and energy consumption. Looking for biodegradability and maximum efficiency is therefore imperative.
Funded by the European Union with around 6 million euros, the FuturEnzyme project aims to unlock the potential of enzymes through an innovative and integrative approach to obtain detergent, cosmetics and textiles with lower environmental impact.

Enzymes are biological catalysts capable of speeding up chemical reactions that could not happen on their own due to their slowness or strongly dependency on the energy involved. Widely used in industry, enzymes have a great ability to make manufacturing processes greener. Detergents based on enzymes, for example, require lower temperature, washing times and phosphates, helping reduce water pollution. Enzymes-based detergents are also less aggressive towards textiles than synthetic alternatives (Vojcic L., 2015). Even in the textile sector, the standard manufacturing process involves toxic chemicals (1.5-3.0% by weight) and a large amount of water that can be reduced thanks to enzymes. Energy and environmental efficiency can also be achieved in the cosmetic sector, where enzymes can confer protective, exfoliating and absorption properties of active ingredients (Sunar K, 2016).

FuturEnzyme exploits 'smart' enzymes that meet industry efficiency and stability requirements through the massive search for extremophile microorganisms from remote and inaccessible habitats. By combining big data mining, machine learning, sophisticated activity-based bioprospecting, protein engineering, and nano-biotechnology, FuturEnzyme creates more environmentally friendly and affordable everyday enzyme-based products. The project involves a multidisciplinary team of 16 European academic and industrial partners, including cross-sectoral multi-stakeholders providing a broad network of technical skills, industrial processes and market players.

In FuturEnzyme, Italbiotec works as a leader in communication and dissemination to create a wide international network by connecting academia and manufacturers. Italbiotec is responsible for the environmental assessment of enzyme-based products carrying out a Life Cycle Assessments and a Socio-economic study on over 10,000 European consumers to verify the market potential, evaluate purchasing habits and propensities, facilitate a change in behaviour leading to more sustainable choices.

by Cecilia Ceccherini

LIFE 2022 Call for proposals open! 598 million for green ideas
LIFE 2022 Call for proposals open! 598 million for green ideas 
May 26, 2022 / EU Funds for climate 

The LIFE 2022 Call for proposals, the longest-running European program dedicated to addressing environmental and climate challenges, was published on 17 May 2022 with a budget of 598 million for nature conservation, environmental protection, climate action, and clean energy transition projects.
With a total budget of 5.43 billion for 2021-2027, the LIFE programme funds demo projects based on innovative breakthrough technologies, good practices and regional, interregional or national environmental and climate plans.
LIFE projects have a duration of about 4 years and you can participate as a single entity or as a partnership (starting with a minimum of 3 partners). Life projects should provide a level of innovation from TRL 5. Essential for project eligibility is the replicability of the project and the possibility of transferring the application to different sectors. Life projects should also help to create additional investments and contribute to improve additional policies and legislation.

What are green ideas eligible for the LIFE grant?
nature and biodiversity (242 million), including policy and legislation compliance;
circular economy and quality of life (158 million) to facilitate the transition toward a sustainable, circular, toxic-free, energy-efficient/climate-resilient economy and a toxic-free environment;
‑ climate change mitigation and adaptation (99 million), including policy development;
‑ clean energy transition (98 million),including actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase the generation and use of renewable energy and improvement of energy efficiency.

Who are they for?
The calls are addressed to Universities, SMEs, research centres, public or private associations.
How much will the funding be?
The facility is a non-repayable contribution between 60% and 75% of the eligible costs based on the priority, theme and type of action chosen. The remaining share may come from the organization's own funds or from grants and sponsorships from other entities.

LIFE includes different type of grants with different deadlines:
Standard Action Projects (SAPs) for circular economy and quality of life, nature and biodiversity, climate change mitigation and adaptation sub-programmes: 4 October 2022
• LIFE Action Grants for clean energy transition sub-programme: 16 November 2022
Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs) and Strategic Nature Projects (SNAPs):    
   o Concept notes: 8 September 2022
   o Full proposals: 30 March 2023

How can you apply for?
A low propensity to transform innovative ideas into successful initiatives translates into billions of euros of unspent EU funds and missed opportunities for SMEs, non-profit organizations, universities and public authorities.
Applying for EU funding opportunities requires commitment, vision and strategic attitude. Italbiotec is the ideal partner for developing solutions that transform discoveries tested in labs into demonstration projects up to the market. It helps in consortia building, technical due-diligence, market analysis, economic, social and environmental impacts analyses.
Are you interested in our LIFE track record? Discover the LIFE BIOREST and VITISOM LIFE projects.
Contact us to make your proposal come true!

By Cecilia Ceccherini

How do you Know about the market of alternative proteins?
How big is the alternative protein market? 
May 13, 2022  / Trends in food

They are not just vegetarian options to traditional meat, the alternative protein market includes a wide range of products and ingredients that use different plant proteins, such as soy and peas, new animal sources like insects and biotechnological innovations, such as cultured meat or fungal proteins. We can make meat from plants, by fermentation or cultivation of actual animal cells. These different ways to produce new foods coincide with the three main areas of the alternative proteins market. Market dynamics are being pressed, especially in the most developed countries, due to the growing attention to meat’s impact on health, environment and climate, and animal welfare (McKinsey&Company, 2022).
A trend suggests that the alternative proteins market will be worth roughly 71 billion U.S. dollars by 2025, a growth fueled by last decade’s biotechnologists’ efforts to improve food functionalities and create entirely new types of food.

How many companies are focused on new food and alternative proteins? According to the Good Food Institute (GFI): 88 fermentation companies are focused exclusively or predominantly on alternative proteins, 780+ companies worldwide with a primary focus on plant-based meat, seafood, egg, or dairy and 107 total cultivated meat and seafood industry startups announced by the end of 2021, up 24% from 2020 (Good Food Institute, 2022).

Companies investing in alternative proteins are taking advantage of funding rounds and growing dramatically yearly. To name a few: Future Meat Technologies ended the year with a $347 million funding round in December; Eat Just raised a $200 million funding round in March, followed by a $276 million round completed in September; Aleph Farms raised $100 million. Cultured seafood companies have made significant rounds, with BlueNalu raising $60 million and Finless Foods raising a $34 million Series B. Biomass fermentation company Fynd raised $350 million in a Series C round led by Vision Fund 2.

Alternative proteins offer some of the most game-changing research opportunities with potential for global societal impact-stabilizing the climate and preserving biodiversity while eliminating food’s contribution to pandemic risk and antibiotic resistance. We can reduce the harmful climate impacts of our food system, decrease the risk of zoonotic disease and antibiotic resistance, and feed more people with fewer resources. We can also slow biodiversity loss, reduce air and water pollution, and preserve our oceans.

Consorzio Italbiotec works to support the development of this new biotechnology sector, analyzing business models, developing technologies and products benchmarking and supporting companies in fundraising. Do you want to invest in this field? Do you have an idea and need a guide?
Contact us for a meeting with our experts!

By Cecilia Ceccherini

How green investments drive SMEs growth
How green investments drive SMEs growth  
April 26, 2022 / Driving innovation 

Investing in green innovations is the solution for the recovery and resilience of our economies. With over 1 trillion euros invested in the next decade, Europe aims to accelerate the green transition by ensuring a substantial social-economic impact, especially in those regions with a high intensity of CO2 emissions and substantial fossil dependence.

However, the race towards the green transition looks slower than expected. While Italy waits to receive the first 40 billion euros from Europe, the conflict in Ukraine and raw materials and energy expenditure threaten to increase spending on public procurement and investments. Will this revision lead to a reduction in the scale of expected benefits?

According to the European Innovation Scoreboard 2021 (EIS), Italy ranks among the EU Member States that experienced the most significant growth in innovation from 2014 to 2021, compared to an average increase of 12.5 percentage points. Innovation measured according to 32 indicators is an interconnected system of investments in academic and vocational education, scientific research at an international level, R&D expenditure of firms and the public sector, employment, SMEs' attitude toward products and business models designed to market needs.

Although Italy ranks according to the EIS among moderate innovators, its innovation performance has grown by 26.1% since 2014, standing out in the European average for circular material use rate (18.8 to 112 EU) and Eco-innovation index (11.7 to 100 EU). A high value of the circularity rate means the substantial introduction into the production system of raw materials recovered from previous operations by replacing the primary ones, avoiding the environmental impacts of extraction (EIS, 2021).

The latest Symbola GreenItaly Report also confirms Italian firms' green performance rates. Despite the inevitable production cuts and readjustments, investments in green solutions did not stop in 2021, mobilizing over 300,000 Italian companies. The uncertainty and instability of consumption have not slowed down the drive towards environmental sustainability even in traditional sectors, with the adoption of circular solutions increasingly present in business choices. Green companies are more resilient: among those who invested in green solutions, 14% increased their turnover in 2021, compared to 9% of non-green companies.

Are you interested in learning more about green performance indicators? Consult the Italbiotec scientific paper Driving Green Investments by Measuring Innovation Impacts published by the Open Access Sustainability journal.

by Ilaria Re

Growing strategic alliances, boosting excellence
Growing strategic alliances, boosting excellence 
April 14, 2022 / Biotech community 

Joins the Italbiotec ecosystem for accelerating your innovation up

The health and economic crisis of Covid19 has led to shocking changes in the employment, production and consumption of our daily life. The appeal to resilience has accelerated investments in diagnostic, therapeutic, digital and biotechnology, marking a central role in the fight against the pandemic and a tipping point for financials. Thousands of venture capital hit a record in conducted funding rounds worth more than 120 billion dollars invested globally in healthcare and biotech start-ups (data Crunchbase).
In Italy, according to Eurostat, R& investments in biotech reached 689.25 million dollars in 2021 and are set to grow to 802.49 million dollars by 2025 (data Statista; Eurostat). Despite this growth, firms' investment and capitalisation gaps are still huge, and building academic and industrial ecosystems is part of the recipe for accelerating market-driven innovation.

Maximising investments in cutting-edge technology, reducing impairment loss, and strengthening research quality is what Italbiotec offers its shareholders.
Do you have an innovative idea and would like to turn it into a product? Are you looking for a strategic partner to develop your business? We support companies, start-ups and researchers in the rapidly expanding biotechnology sector, increasing customer's innovation management performance by providing advice on accessing EU improvement programs and business development, turning ideas into sustainable innovation.

How do we do it? We improve decision-making by increasing the customer’s value proposition, opening new markets and reducing management costs. We offer a wide range of consulting business development services and technological due diligence, helping with the strategic positioning of a new product by analysing the industry, potential customers and brand perception.
We create collaborations between universities and industries to accelerate solutions from the laboratory phase to the market, analysing prospects and leads, success factors and potential obstacles to developing the idea and a business plan. Due diligence is also supported by comparative studies of sustainability and socio-economic impact. Additionally, companies can diversify their business and product range by partnering with innovative start-ups and university research and leveraging their agility to test products prior to their final placement. Over 80 members throughout Italy belong Italbiotec ecosystem mobilising over 10 million investments in research and development every year.

by Cecilia Ceccherini

Fighting greenwashing by LCA solutions
Fighting greenwashing by LCA solutions 
March 23, 2022 / Greenwashing 

Building up customers' trust in your green products by fostering data transparency

Valued at 10.32 billion US dollars in 2020, the global eco-friendly solutions and green technology market is projected to reach 74.64 billion US dollars by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 21.9% 1 . In recent years, Cop21 and UN climate policy agreements have accelerated the green market growth encouraging financial instruments, such as Green Bonds. Obligations issued by supranational financial institutions and big players support various projects with a high environmental sustainability impact, including mobility to waste treatment, eco-friendly building, and water reclamation.
Green Bonds will probably represent the strongest economic vector to ensure the fossil-based energy transition of economic systems. In 2020, around 236 billion euros of Green Bonds were issued in Europe (+ 57% compared to 2018), with Germany, France, and the Netherlands accounting for a third  2  and more recently, the Next Generation EU represents an 800 billion euro green bond destined to achieve the climate neutrality targets by 2050.

Driven by exponential market growth, producers and retailers are racing to implement greener production models, encouraged by a consumer increasingly environmental impacts awareness. However, the tremendous momentum of green tech operators has fueled green marketing and greenwashing, representing the biggest obstacle to sustainable investing according to institutional investors worldwide.
Strategic green marketing is responsible for a false impression of their environmental benefits, penalising companies genuinely committed to greening their products.
The skyrocketing incidence of greenwashing can profoundly affect consumer and investor confidence in green products, calling for greater transparency and reporting of sustainability data. A reliable and standardized method of assessing and quantifying company performance, the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an indispensable tool for enhancing and protecting all ecological claims.

Do you want to want to make your products or innovative processes more reliable?
Italbiotec develops specific and tailor-made environmental studies to quantify and understand the environmental impact associated with a product and its process system over the entire lifecycle. Italbiotec provides values on ESG materiality issues, analyzing several indicators such as climate change, water use impacts, human health impacts, and land use.
Italbiotec will also be able to support the evaluation of new development opportunities, such as participation in funded projects, business model development, and industrial scaling up.

by Fabiana Gatto, Ilaria Re

Biotechnology for industrial energy needs
Biotechnology for industrial energy needs 
March 14, 2022 / Energy 

Bioenergy and energy efficiency. How to access PNRR funds supporting the green transition.

The energy shock in 2022 is worth a 37 billion price increase for Italian companies. The effects are visible and drastic: many companies have limited production, slowing it down in the most energy-intensive departments and partially halted production. The solution comes from Biotechnology, which plays a fundamental role in developing sustainable applications to produce renewable energy from biomass.

Bioenergy represents the future of our economy: starting biomass (agricultural or forestry waste) is turned into energy through thermochemical and chemical/biochemical processes. In this way thermal energy, electricity, Syngas, synthetic gas, bioethanol, biogas, biomethane, hydrogen and biodiesel are obtained.
In a perfect idea of circular economy, bioenergy can be directly obtained in the companies and reused, lowering energy costs and contributing to environmental sustainability.

Sustainable development and cutting-edge innovations accelerate concrete business solutions to support energy challenges. Are you looking for financial instruments for your company? Would you like to take advantage of the Recovery Plan funds?
Italbiotec supports your company towards alternative energy solutions based on biotechnology.
Italbiotec develops industrial research projects and advanced consulting services by facilitating access to public funding at regional, national and EU levels. Since its foundation in 1998, Italbiotec has managed projects for over 200 million euros in grants, creating new opportunities for growth and acceleration of their business model.

Italbiotec helps companies with high energy demand exploit PNRR Calls in the energy field.
The M2C2 section-renewable energy, hydrogen, grid and sustainable mobility provides 25.36 billion euros for increasing renewable energy and hydrogen use, investing in agro-voltaic development, and promoting Renewables energy communities and self-consumption, innovative plants, development of bio-methane.
Specifically, these calls provide for the implementation of hybrid energy production-agriculture systems and the development of biomethane obtained from organic residues. It is expected the installation in companies of agro-voltaic plants which would produce about 1,300 GWh per year and a supply of circa biomethate 2.3-2.5 billion cubic meters.

by Cecilia Ceccherini

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