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Now, the Dunedin start-up, Zestt Wellness, they co-founded is a finalist in the 2022 NutraIngredients Europe Awards.
Zestt Wellness is a finalist in the start-up category of the competition, which honours the "best and brightest" in ingredients, companies, finished products, people and initiatives in the nutrition and dietary supplements industry.
The winners would be announced at an online ceremony in May and it was "very cool" to be recognised at such an early stage, Dr Campbell said.
Strategic partners with whom the business undertook research and product development included Anagenix, Dunedin’s Blis Technologies and the University of Otago.
A subsidiary company was launched for the European market and Zestt was setting up a subsidiary company in the United States and exploring opportunities in Asia, she said.
For its UK business Zest Wellness UK, it partnered with Capital Agri, a company co-founded by Haydn Craig, an ex-Otago man whom she worked with at AbacusBio in Dunedin.
Targeting inflammation was the "No 1" public health concern that Zestt Wellness addressed, Dr Campbell said.
The World Health Organisation ranked chronic diseases as the greatest threat to human health.
Mr Schack suffered from two autoimmune diseases, sarcoidosis and ankylosing spondylitis, with lung, brain and heart implications.
That was a key driver in the company’s purpose, which was "to change lives using scientifically proven, natural health products".
Zestt designed and developed products which targeted the underlying causes of inflammation, reducing associated symptoms and upstream problems.
Both she and Mr Schack had extensive scientific backgrounds and were strong advocates of scientific rigour and evidence-based products which drives any commercial decision, Dr Campbell said.
EXhale Lung Health and Immunity liquid launched in the market in June last year, sold via a direct-to-consumer business model in New Zealand and Australia, and received fast success, the company said in its award application.
Positive reviews from consumers and interest generated led Zestt to develop some new products, which went on the market in January — Pulse Heart Restoration and Health, Defend Periodontal and Oral Health and Insight Brain Health and Acuity lozenges.
It was Mr Schack’s personal struggle with autoimmune disease which underpinned the company’s drive to deliver efficacious products to others who were similarly suffering.
He wrote: "I lay on a hospital gurney for two and a-half hours in an empty hallway, apprehensively awaiting my turn. I got lost in my thoughts. I felt a profound sense of loneliness and hopelessness, all the decisions in my life that had brought me to that point laid out before me. I wanted to be anywhere else but that hallway.
"I thought if I get out of this scrape, I will change things. It wasn’t pleading to a higher power, rather a profound sense of wanting to get the chance to understand what was transpiring inside my body and how to change it," he wrote.
He made it out of the hallway alive and started researching, teaming up with Dr Campbell and the pair investigated plant bioactives and their use in lung health.
The pair said the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated their launch.
"It became apparent that the time to move was sooner rather than later — as there might not have been a later for Darcy. This sounds dramatic, but if you are immunocompromised, this is reality."