Nestlé to “pioneer” new industry, food and pharma bridge

“Hundreds of millions” to be invested in new research venture that will be housed at EPFL in Lausanne

Luis Cantarell, president and CEO of new Nestlé Health Science SA

Vevey, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Multinational Nestlé announced Monday morning 27 September that it is creating “Nestlé Health Science SA and the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences to pioneer a new industry between food and pharma.”

The two separate units will focus on prevention and treatment of health conditions, including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease, says the company. It has not said how many jobs will be created by the new businesses, one of which will be in or near Vevey, it appears, with the other in Lausanne at EPFL.

The move is a significant step beyond the company’s core food business. Nestlé entered the  healthcare nutrition business in 1986. In recent years it has made a number of acquisitions in the field, notably in buying Novartis Medical Nutrition.

The Financial Times writes that “many analysts expect Nestlé to make significant further takeovers, with Abbott Laboratories, a leading US health nutrition group, widely tipped as a target.”

Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathes says that “the combination of health economics, changing demographics and advances in health science show that our existing healthcare systems, which focus on treating sick people, are not sustainable and need redesigning. Nestlé has the expertise, the science, the resources and the organization to play a major role in seeking alternative solutions. Personalized health science nutrition is about finding efficient and cost effective ways to prevent and treat acute and chronic diseases in the 21st century.”

Luis Cantarell, currently chief executive office of the Americas division of Nestlé, its largest region, will be president and CEO of the new wholly owned subsidiary, Nestlé Health Science SA. It becomes operational 1 January 2011 and will incorporate the existing Nestlé HealthCare Nutrition business, with a 2009 turnover of CHF1.6 billion. It will have access to “a number of venture capital funds” in which the parent has an interest. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe will chair the new company’s board.

The Institute of Health Sciences, to be based at the Swiss federal polytechnic institute, EPFL, in Lausanne, will receive investments of “hundreds of millions of Swiss francs over the next decade to build a world-class Institute of Health Sciences, which will conduct research in relevant areas of biomedical science to translate this knowledge into nutritional strategies to improve health and longevity,” Nestlé says. It will be led by Emmanuel Baetge, former chief scientific officer of ViaCyte, a biotech company based in San Diego, California in the US, who will report to Nestlé chief technology officer Werner Bauer and a steering committee composed of Nestlé people and other members from outside the company.


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