Engineered probiotic designed to provide antibiotic alternative

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

 © GettyImages/Sinhyu
© GettyImages/Sinhyu

Related tags Probiotic Enzyme antibiotic alternative

Pando Nutrition is looking to provide an antibiotic alternative to poultry producers by genetically engineering a probiotic-secreted enzyme, says CEO.

The California-based feed additive startup is working to support poultry producers as they shift away from a reliance antibiotics, said Douglas Manofsky, co-founder and CEO of Pando Nutrition, Inc.

In particular, the company is focusing on alternatives to medically important antibiotics.

“Livestock producers are more challenged to achieve the same performance that they grew accustomed to when they could use antibiotics as growth promoters, so really … not only keeping livestock healthy and performing well, but doing 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 dossier for regulatory approval 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

Enzymes can be sensitive to pH and temperature and it can be difficult to deliver 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,” ​said Manofsky. “Probiotics are very popular in animal feed and are very cheap to mass produce.” 

The company started working on the probiotic and enzyme combination 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 in feed if it’s sporulated,”​ he added.

The company has a patent-pending technology for enrobing its probiotic yeasts.

“Our first concern in the delivery of the enzyme was the time it takes for those spores to germinate in the digestive tract of the animal; chickens, for example, have a digestive transit time of a few hours​."

Market focus, path to commercialization  

The initial target market for the feed additive is the poultry industry in the US, said Manofsky. 

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 on the marketing, research and distribution aspects, he said.

“We just have to find the sweet spot, do the things we think we can excel at, and 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 a variety of potential partners.”

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