KitoZyme, a biotech company active in the healthcare sector, started as a spin-off from the University of Liege in 2000. Their IP is based on the biopolymers, chitosan and chitin-glucan. Traditionally, chitosan is extracted from crabs and shrimp. However, KitoZyme has managed to derive chitosan from a non-aminal source using fungi. They have a portfolio of different applications for medical devices ranging from weight loss, digestive health and cardiovascular treatments. They also supply the food and beverage industry with chitosan for wine treatment and are investigating other applications.
This year KitoZyme won, for the second year in a row, the “DELOITTE Technology fast 50” award in its division, as it recorded a stunning 354% sales growth rate over the last 5 years! This award recognizes the fastest growing technology company across the country.
It was found that people lost an average of 3,2 kg of body weight compared to the placebo”.
From weight management…
François Blondel, CEO of KitoZyme: “KitoZyme is a world leader in its sector as we are the only company in the world that produces chitosan from a natural, non-animal source. For a period of more than 10 years, KitoZyme conducted R&D looking for different applications, spending a lot of energy and resources. At the beginning of 2013, we decided to focus on applications that would have the most effect in the short term. We chose to enter the weight management field as chitosan is scientifically proven to be extremely well suited for applications in weight loss products. While we made this decision knowing that competition is very strong in this market, we were confident that this was the right choice!”
The positively charged amine functions (-NH3+) of the chitosan bind to the negatively charged acid (COO-) of fatty acids and bile acids. This reduces the absorption of lipids by the body and supports the natural excretion. Blondel continues: “Over the last three years and with the backing of strong scientific data, we have been quite successful in developing our portfolio. For example, in a recent clinical trial where the patients ingested a KitoZyme pill containing 150 mg of chitosan with every meal for 90 days, it was found that people lost an average of 3,2 kg of body weight compared to the placebo”.
XLS Medical is a popular weight management product from Omega Pharma that works using the same principle: avoiding lipid absorption by binding it with fibre that is naturally excreted. When asked how Kitozyme’s product compares to that of Omega Pharma, Blondel responds swiftly:
“Our product is undeniably better, I challenge Mark Coucke to try our product and compare it with the results achieved with XLS Medical!”
Historically, for their weight management products, KitoZyme has used a B2B business model, selling chitosan to large healthcare and pharmaceutical companies as an ingredient for their weight management products. KitoZyme’s chitosan can for example be found in Fat Control from Boots (UK), in Blockeur Forte® from Biocyte (France), in Oenobiol Liporéducteur from Sanofi (France) and ObesiStop® Fettbinder (Austria, Germany), to name a few. Lately, the company has started selling on a B2C basis in the middle-east countries.
Blondel continues: “When we started we knew that we did not want to limit ourselves to weight management and digestive health, although these areas have great potential for growth. We strongly believed that the future of the company lay in expanding the areas in which chitosan is being used. Use in the field of cardiovascular health is one such area that we could expand into, as studies have conclusively shown that chitosan has the capability to lower LDL cholesterol and thus improve cardiovascular health”.
… to wine treatment
Chitosan also has antimicrobial properties. “It turned out to be a wonderful fiber to assist in the vinification process. We today cooperate with a major company that is associated with that market segment and sells our products in all the major wine producing countries around the world”.
In January of 2013 Blondel was appointed CEO of KitoZyme. Before that, he has already had an impressive career. He started in the chemical sector and has international experience, having worked in both in the US and Europe. In 1999, he joined International Brachytherapy (IBt), which at that time was a medical device start-up that focused on cancer treatment using radio-isotopes. He served as CEO, leading IBt from the R&D stage to a Euronext listed company. IBt now is a successful and well-diversified international group that is a European leader in its field.
As an entrepreneur, he has had experience in the management and development of innovation driven companies, within the technology or the life sciences sectors. Today he combines executive functions, with non-executive functions board memberships, either as the chairman of the board or as a board member. The companies in which he is active or has been active range from major listed companies (such as Recticel and Compagnie du Bois Sauvage) to SMEs (OncoDNA, Nanocyl, Delphi Genetics, Synolyne Pharma, Uniteq, etc.) or public institutions (AWEX, BioWin, etc.).