Artificial Intelligence to accelerate animal health ingredient discovery

By Lynda Searby

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/metamorworks
© GettyImages/metamorworks
A new joint venture between Nuritas and Stonehaven Incubate will see Artificial Intelligence (AI) being applied to bioactive peptides to conceive new feed ingredients for animal health.

Founded in 2014 by mathematician and bioinformatician Dr Nora Khaldi, Irish biotech company Nuritas has a proprietary discovery platform that uses genomics and AI to identify bioactive peptides with health benefits. The software has already been proven in a human health context – it was used to select the plant-based peptides that form the basis of BASF’s PeptAIde inflammation regulating sports nutrition ingredient – and now, Stonehaven Incubate is planning to use the technology to bring to market new animal health ingredients. 

Emmet Browne, CEO of Nuritas, told FeedNavigator that two example areas of animal health the partnership could explore are rheumatology and antibiotic alternatives, amongst several others. 

“Our focus is on identifying innovative ingredients, extracting them from nature and unlocking their healthcare potential. Stonehaven will draw on its knowledge of animal health to maximize ways of harnessing our technology and its innovations,” ​explained Browne. 

“All of our sources are natural, an attribute that we believe will distinguish our bioactive peptides in the animal health market,” ​he added. 

Unlocking nature’s door

Explaining how Nuritas’ discovery platform works, Browne said: “In nature, there is an abundance of bioactive peptides with a vast array of biological functions. This makes it virtually impossible to identify those that may be useful for a specific health need, which is why we use AI to predict and identify those unique bioactive peptides before finally extracting them from natural plant sources.”

He said that without the use of AI, the only way of isolating peptides with specific health functionality is to “conduct random screening until you get a hit”​ – an approach he likens to “throwing millions of keys at a single lock in the hope of finding one that works”​. 

“We are taking away all of that randomness, luck and fortune and using AI to find one specific bioactive peptide, extract it and unlock it. AI is the key that allows you to open the door into nature and its bountiful health benefitting harvest,”​ said Browne. 

He explained that proprietary software combined with a scaling facility means Nuritas can offer an “end-to-end computer to production”​ process for extracting and scaling peptides, with predictions validated via testing in the company’s in-house wet lab. 

“The results can then be fed back into the algorithm and the process started all over again, resulting in an outcome that is a closer match than the previous attempt - it’s all about making predictions and testing whether they are wrong or right,” ​said Browne. 

Accelerated development

One of the advantages of AI is the speed with which ingredients can be identified and brought to market, according to Nuritas. It claims AI can accelerate the discovery of a healthcare product from concept to market in less than three years and in some cases much shorter. 

There are various ways in which the technology can be utilized by other companies.

“Effectively, we are the innovative discovery company; we don’t lease the software, we make the discoveries and then, as in the case of BASF, we grant a license to commercialize those peptides,” ​explained Browne. 

Alternatively, Nuritas can operate on an “on-demand”​ basis for customers, whereby it will start the process of looking for peptides to match certain criteria or in specific health areas. 

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