Charlotte E Albertsson | Thylabisco
Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson knows what she is talking about. Having conducted research into food and appetite regulation for close to 25 years, she has now taken her discoveries into the market. Using the idea that natural substances in spinach and green leaves trigger the release of satiety hormones, she has formed a company and developed a nutritional supplement which is sold internationally in health food shops.
Natural substance in green leaves for increased satiety
Charlotte's innovation is based on the discovery that thylakoids, the chlorophyll-bearing substances present in spinach and green leaves, delay digestion and trigger the release of satiety hormones in the gut. The gut in turn then sends signals of satisfaction and reduced sugar cravings to the brain.
Spinach in powder form helps the body to make the most of the beneficial thylakoids and activate its own signal system.
- Once we had made the discovery and tested it, we thought "this could actually be used and patented!".
We contacted LU Innovation and a small group was formed, which set to work with great energy. We got help with the patent application and the business model and received financial support for the patent costs, purchasing and verification.
External capital from unexpected sources
The company, Thylabisco, was created a couple of years later when the journey towards developing a commercial product began.
- It went back and forth a little bit, first we thought we could sell the product ourselves online. But the business developers explained to us that, in that case, we would need a lot more capital to be able to advertise. They arranged many meetings for us, with large companies and various venture capitalists.
The project did not acquire any external capital at that point as a finished product in addition to the effect was requested. The whole thing was solved instead through contacts, as a businessman with whom Charlotte was acquainted chose to join the company. He was genuinely interested in natural products and also wanted to be part of developing the product and getting involved with the research and the University. With LU Innovation's help, a licensing agreement was drawn up, which entails ownership of the patent by Thylabisco, and authorised use by licensed company Green Leaf Medical AB.
- The licensing deal works really well. I get to continue to do what I am passionate about, conducting further research into the discovery and new effects, while our collaboration partners take care of marketing and product development!
Taking research to the next level – part of the job
- Commercialising an idea requires time, money and energy. If you are going to invest properly, you have to be able to be open about it, says Charlotte.
- I have received enormous support from LU Innovation and from the University in general. They have really stood behind the notion that one has to be a bit practical with one's discoveries. So I have never had the feeling that I had gone in the wrong direction. This is not something you do in your spare time, but part of your job!
She now gets to continue to do what she is passionate about, conducting further research into the discovery and new effects.
Think through what you want to achieve
It can be difficult to look to the future and wonder how to move forward with your idea if the process picks up speed and money comes in to the project. Many people do not think beyond the patent itself and its protection.
- Try to think through what you want to achieve, clarify it to yourself. If your idea leads to something, what will you do then? Using your company for further research and to employ young doctoral students can be a way of channeling the money.
If you are uncertain about whether your idea is sustainable or whether it has got far enough, you can always contact LU Innovation to ask the question.
Excessive weight is a common health problem. Previously, research looked for a substance which affects appetite, but there is now greater awareness of the frequent signals sent between hormones in the gut and the brain – signals which reduce anxiety and increase the feeling of satisfaction, which in turn leads to an increased feeling of satiety and a reduction in sugar cravings.
Researcher Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson discovered that there is chemistry involved in appetite regulation. Thylakoids, chlorophyll-bearing substances which are present in spinach and other green leaves, delay digestion and trigger the release of satiety hormones in the gut, while providing natural nutrition. A nutritional supplement in the form of spinach powder was produced to allow the body to take up the beneficial thylakoids and activate its own signal system, which does not work if we eat spinach in its natural form.
Charlotte Erlanson-Albertsson set up the company Thylabisco AB together with her husband, researcher Per-Åke Albertsson, and LU Innovation System AB in 2007. The company signed a licensing agreement with Green Leaf Medical AB in 2011 for the rights to the use of the Thylabisco patent in commercial production and marketing of the spinach powder Aptiless. The product is currently sold internationally in health food shops.