The Massachusetts-based biotechnology company announced Wednesday [September 25] that it received approval for its patent addressing aspects of its single-cell protein and carotenoid production developments from the European Patent Office.
The company’s ingredients are intended for use in animal feed.
The patent – Methylotrophs for Aquaculture and Animal Feed – was an early one for the company, said Larry Feinberg, CEO with KnipBio.
“This was a relatively earlier patent that we applied for that established the idea that these types of organisms, known as Methylotrophs, could have applications for animal nutrition – specifically, but not limited to aquafeeds,” he told FeedNavigator. “And, what is protected, is the ability to manipulate and adjust the carotenoid content of the protein and then to use that protein in an animal feed.”
However, the company is still waiting for a version of the awarded patent to work its way through the US regulatory system, he said. “We expect that to be coming very shortly,” he added.
“It’s a huge relief,” Feinberg said of learning the EU patent had been approved. “It’s validating, and it provides comfort to the company, our team and investors that the process works, we can go out there and develop something that’s new and have the potential to protect it.”
“Intellectual property is a very big deal for a technology company like ours, it’s essentially our currency in many ways,” he added.
The patent is one of several in progress, said Feinberg.
“We do a combination of filing as well as trade secrets depending on what we need and what we think gives us the best opportunity to protect ourselves.”
KnipBio has been developing a protein-plus product platform for the last five years, which is based on technology covered by the patent.
“Single-cell protein made from methylotrophs offers an outstanding option for meeting the protein needs of the aquaculture industry in the coming decades,” Feinberg said. “The manufacturing process is highly scalable and the single-cell protein produced is traceable, an increasingly important benefit for the industry.”
Methylotrophs, including Methylobacterium extorquens, are microbes that can be used to generate feed ingredients and provide a source of protein. The microbes also have the ability to generate polyhydroxy butyrate and carotenoids, which are of interest in some aquaculture diets, said KnipBio.
Regulatory approvals and GM status
The patent approval follows another regulatory win for the company that came earlier this year in the form of a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) designation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That approval for use designation covers the company’s single-cell protein feed ingredient, KnipBio meal (KBM) and allows it to be included in feeds for salmonids and other species of finfish.
Feinberg told us at the time that the regulatory designation helps establish a precedent for new technologies and other novel proteins.
KnipBio has applied for regulatory approval for its feed protein in the EU, said Feinberg. However, it is still waiting for the process to conclude.
“The quick answer is, 'it depends' – some of them won’t be, some of them will be,” he said of the GM status for the company’s feed protein and other ingredients. “What was approved in the US is not considered GM, but we certainly don’t shy away from it - we think there’s a tremendous opportunity in biotechnologies in general.”