Atlantia’s Andrea Doolan Talks Expansion

27th May 2019

Posted In: The Interview

Cork firm Atlantia Food Clinical Trials, which recently opened offices on Chicago’s ‘Magnificent Mile’ plans to expand into the regions of South America and Asia-Pacific by 2024, its Chief Executive has revealed.

Words: Áilín Quinlan

A spinout of the APC Microbiome Ireland, an SFI Research Centre at UCC, the Enterprise Ireland-supported firm, which is based in Blackpool on the city’s northside, specialises in conducting studies in foods and supplement for firms seeking to scientifically validate their health and marketing claims.

Atlantia also evaluates so-called ‘live bio-therapeutic’ products, which are micro-organisms used for the prevention and treatment of diseases.

“Our major clients encouraged us to open an office in the US because of the demand for food trials to be run in the United States, on US populations,” explains Atlantia CEO and co-founder Andrea Doolan. An initial team of six staff, which will, she expects, rise to about 20 within 12 months, will be in place at the Chicago HQ in June. Here, the company will specialise in conducting studies in foods, beverages and supplements for companies worldwide that want to scientifically validate their functional ingredients to support an EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) Health Claim, FDA (Food & Drug Administration) Structure Function Claim or General Product Marketing Claim.

“The work will be similar to that being carried out in Cork; that is, clinical studies to prove certain ingredients have functional health benefits,” explains Andrea, winner of the Matheson WMB Female Entrepreneur Award 2018.

“These generally include live bio-therapeutic, botanical extracts and dietary supplements,” she says, adding that in Cork, for example, the team has most recently been investigating the benefits of a vegetable extract which aims to reduce the incidence and severity of upper respiratory tract infections in the elderly. “Such an ingredient would generally become available over the counter as a food or as a dietary supplement.”

“We expect that by this time next year we’ll have up to 20 people employed at the clinic.
“There is a big demand for our service, as there are a lot of companies developing new products and recognising the fact that they need scientific evidence to support qualified health claims.

“This industry is in a phase of rapid discovery and strong growth, and as a leading expert in clinical studies, we can help our clients to deliver on their product development needs, in a highly competitive market. The firm, she points out, is “uniquely positioned” in the marketplace, running and operating its own clinic sites. “Our team includes physician experts in digestive health, mental health, cardiovascular health, sports performance, metabolic disease, bone health, immune health and healthy ageing. The clinical team includes project managers, research nurses, nutritionists, certified sports trainers and lab researchers.”

The decision to open a US office on Chicago’s North Michigan Avenue has been described as a “big step” for Atlantia by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who was on hand for the official launch, in Washington, of the company’s first US base shortly before St Patrick’s Day. “Atlantia has grown out of one of our Government backed SFI Research Centres based at University College Cork. These SFI Research Centres are helping to create a new generation of cutting-edge enterprises,” he said, adding that such firms were using innovation to respond to consumer and market demand.

“We are very specialised in the foods and supplements sector,” observes Andrea. “Atlantia is unique in that we specialise in doing clinical trials in foods, supplements, beverages and live-biotherapeutics to ICH-GCP standard.” Meanwhile, having opened its first international offices in Chicago, the company is not about to rest on its laurels. Further expansion – within the next five years – to the regions of South America and Asia-Pacific is also on the cards, Doolan reveals.

“This is a very exciting time for Atlantia,” she declares. “We are moving into the US market which is a very significant market for the support of the growth of Atlantia through the next stage of its development. “We’re already working with some of the largest multinationals in the world, and so, to be able to offer these companies multi-centre, multi-national clinical trials is unique.

“It positions Atlantia as a world-class partner for clinical trials.”

The company’s ambitious growth strategy has been welcomed by Enterprise Ireland – CEO Julie Sinnamon said Atlantia was providing “a unique” service carried out by “inhouse experts” who have grown from a foundation of research excellence at UCC.  “This US expansion demonstrates an impressive commitment to the functional ingredients market which is now worth more than €45 billion.”