The California-based feed additive startup is working to support poultry producers moving away from the use of antibiotics, said Douglas Manofsky, co-founder and CEO of Pando Nutrition, Inc.
The work to develop an alternative came from an interest to support efforts to reduce the use of medically important antibiotics in livestock by designing products specifically for food-producing species.
“It put livestock producers in a place where they’re more challenged to achieve the same performance that they grew accustomed to when they could use antibiotics as growth promoters, so really … the problem that we have to solve for livestock is not only keeping livestock healthy and performing well, but we have to do it without antibiotics,” he told FeedNavigator. “We need to create something new for animals only that can help them.”
The company is working with a genetically engineered strain of a probiotic yeast, which has been designed to secrete an antibacterial enzyme that helps digest bacterial components, he said. “This enzyme has been around for a long time, it’s co-evolved with animals and bacteria and as such its pretty safe,” he added.
Initial work on the approval dossier for regulatory review is starting and the goal, at this point, is to launch the yeast-based product commercially at the end of 2020, he said.
Probiotic, enzyme design
Designing the probiotic as a delivery mechanism for the enzyme helps address some of the more challenging elements of enzyme use, said Manofsky. Enzymes can be sensitive to pH and temperature and it can be difficult to get them to the gastrointestinal tract.
“The probiotic acts as a Trojan horse for the delivery of the enzyme – we only need small amounts of the enzyme in the gut but getting it there is a challenge,” he said. “Probiotics are very popular in animal feed and are very cheap to mass produce.”
“That’s the core of technology using a probiotic … to create a safe, and difficult and expensive to produce enzyme that should ultimately replace antibiotics in animals,” he added.
Work on the probiotic and enzyme combination started in 2018, said Craig Rouskey, co-founder and chief science officer with Pando Nutrition. “The nice thing about Saccharomyces as a probiotic is that it has the ability to sporulate – we can deliver the enzyme pelleted in feed if it’s sporulated,” he added.
“Our first concern in the delivery of the enzyme was the time it takes those spores to germinant in the digestive tract of the animal, for example, poultry have a digestive transit time of a few hours, and we wanted to make sure that it’s able to generate and produce the enzyme that we need,” he said. “Right now, we have a patent-pending technology for enrobing our probiotic yeasts over feed and then delivering the feed to the animal with that enrobed process as a way to deliver that probiotic.”
The work on the combined additive for poultry developed out of an initial interest working on ingredients for milk replacers, he said.
“We have a suite of technology that we’re patent pending on to basically to deliver a number of bifunctional compounds,” added Manofsky.
Market focus, path to commercialization
The initial market focus for the feed additive is the poultry industry in the US, said Manofsky. Birds can be easier to work with in research and feeding trials than some livestock species.
However, the longer-term intention is to expand into cattle and other species, he said.
“Creating something that is as broad as an antibiotic and can work in multiple species is a challenge, but this enzyme is fairly broad in its effect and it has good activity against clostridium perfringens in vitro,” he said. “That causes necrotic enteritis in poultry, but it also causes disease in other species.”
Much of the development work thus far has been in vitro – or in the lab – at this stage, said Manofsky. The first efficacy-focused feeding trial is set to start in August, followed by a safety-focused feeding test.
Currently, the startup is in discussion with a feed additive distributor to develop a partnership regarding some elements of marketing, research and distribution, he said.
“We just have to find the sweet spot to do the things we think we can excel at and we try to outsource the rest,” he said. “We’re still in the process of determining what an arrangement like that would look like and we’re discussing the possibilities with different potential partners.”