Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, rates of anxiety and depression have spiraled upwards by over 25%, according to the World Health Organization. With over 40 million United States adults impacted by anxiety disorders, people are hungry for actionable tips and approachable tools, especially in a time of great collective stress with little innovation in available treatments.
Seed Health, the company behind the award-winning probiotic DS-01™ probiotic and prebiotic supplement, is on a mission to change that. The brand recently launched a Gut-Brain Development Program in partnership with Axial Therapeutics to translate Caltech research into probiotic innovations for neuropsychiatric health, a branch of medicine that focuses on both neurology and psychiatry. The program targets the microbiome-gut-brain axis for mental health, which is important because of its potential benefit to issues like anxiety, depression and stress response.
This joint development builds on the work of Axial co-founder and Board Member and Seed Health Board Member Dr. Sarkis Mazmanian, whose California Institute of Technology (Caltech) lab was the first to discover the role of intestinal microbes and microbial metabolites (compounds that microbes make) in neuropsychiatric conditions. A primary goal of the program is to use that information to understand how treatments targeting the microbiome can be used to improve mental and emotional wellbeing, transforming the current paradigm of treatment in mental health. The development program will be overseen by Seed Health Co-founder and Co-CEO Raja Dhir and recently-appointed Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) Dr. Dirk Gevers, former Head of J&J’s Janssen Human Microbiome Institute.
By the time you’re done reading this article there will probably already be five new papers on the topic of the microbiome and the gut-brain connection. For the past 15 years, this relationship between the nervous system in our gut and the one in our head, has become a hot research topic.
Ara Katz, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Seed Health, explained, “The gut-brain connection and the resulting commercialization is an area where evangelism has largely outpaced the data. The emergence of ‘psychobiotics,’ for example, while often not evidence-based, is evidence of the growing willingness and hope for new interventions.”
When we spoke over Zoom, Katz expressed her excitement about Seed Health’s role in the possibility of innovating a new paradigm of microbiome-targeted treatments to support mental health in a world that sorely needs more options.
Katz also shared that she was heartened to see the topic of gut health becoming more than a diet trend but an actual research-backed tool to support physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. “The importance of gut health is now being so well substantiated by science and also so well understood by the general public. I think that unto itself is an incredible positive, as is the way that that’s trickling down to people starting to understand that diet is such an important modulator and regulator of what happens in the gut.”
She added, “I’m excited by this area because unlike, genomics, or things around longevity or other areas where things can feel further out and where you don’t have the agency to make a change, you CAN do something in the next hour” to improve your microbiome. “What’s also exciting about gut health being so pervasive is that it also extends to areas like diet, exercise and hydration—that are actually well within reach, where people have so much agency.”