Evonik to manufacture milk oligosaccharide product for Swiss startup

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImagesRawpixel
© GettyImagesRawpixel

Related tags microbiome oligosaccharides prebiotics

Swiss biotech, GNUbiotics, has signed a manufacturing agreement with Evonik Nutrition and Care, whereby the German specialty chemicals group will manufacture its milk oligosaccharide product, branded as AMObiome.

The composition of oligosaccharides in AMObiome reproduces the diversity, complexity and functionality of animal milk oligosaccharides (AMOs), said Yemi Adesokan, CSO, GNUbiotics.

That startup is based at Biopôle,​ a science park in Lausanne. The team there develops, characterizes, and elucidates the mechanism of action as well as the key structures and functions of the molecules used in the product and their effect in the microbiome, said the CSO. 

“We started three years ago. Our aim was to build a platform to validate this new family of molecules that can selectively and cleverly modulate the microbiota both in animals and humans. We have a building block strategy, we are starting in animal nutrition, and then we will look to address human nutrition, moving forward,”​ Jean-Philippe Kunz, CEO at GNUbiotics, told us.

The Swiss startup’s product contains up to 30 oligosaccharides, such composition making it a gamechanger, said Adesokan.

“The question we asked starting out was ‘how do we modulate the animal’s microbiome?’

“We realized that a lot of the molecules currently on the market actually did not reflect what is in nature.

"In exploring how nature modulates the microbiome and keeps the animals in a state of symbiosis, we realized that milk oligosaccharides were the way to go to get the best response,” ​he said.


Evonik will apply its technical expertise and industrial capabilities to enable the scale up and commercialization of the prebiotic product.

“GNUbiotics manages the AMObiome value chain, driving the operation from raw material to customer. Evonik plays a major role in producing those complex carbohydrates. It is a well-known producer of high-end ingredients, and its involvement means we can now manufacture, in large quantities, our first product for delivery to both the feed and pet food sectors,” ​said Kunz.

Evonik is an ideal partner for a company like GNUbiotics, added Adesokan. “It is a big player but flexible. It understands the macro scale but can also speak to a biotech such as us, it can really understand our technology and work with us, under our supervision, to scale it up.”

Dr Jean-Luc Herbeaux, senior vice president and general manager of the Evonik business line, Health Care, in a release, said: “Evonik is committed to supporting customers of all sizes in industrializing their technologies."

Processing compatibility 

AMObiome is derived from a natural animal source and is GMO-free, according to company data. As a free-flowing powder that is soluble in water and heat resistant, the company said the product is compatible with a wide range of feeding forms.

The product is already registered in the EU, said the CEO. “We are also pursuing registration in the US,”​ he continued.

What are AMOs?

AMOs are non-digestible carbohydrates naturally present in the milk of mammals and that contribute to the multifaceted benefits of milk; they consist of three to more building blocks bound together, combining four carbohydrates on a lactose core, said the company.

AMOs can help maintain a proper gut flora balance, supporting gut epithelial integrity in the animal, they can exert anti-inflammatory and immune-modulatory effects as well as anti-microbial effect, keeping pathogens in check by giving competitive advantage to commensals, as per GNUbiotics data.

Mammals lack the machinery necessary to digest AMOs, thus enabling the different structures to reach the large intestine where they work in concert in shaping the microbiota in the animal’s gut, said the company.


Trials are being conducted on AMObiome in cats and dogs, and production animal studies are pending, said Adesokan.  

The company said pre-clinical studies of AMObiome have shown the selective promotion of key commensal microbes such as Lactobacillus ​spp., Akkermansia ​spp., Bacteroides ​spp. and Megamonas ​spp. and also demonstrated its intelligent moderating of potential pathogens such as E. coli​ and Salmonella ​spp.

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