US microbiome-focused Ascus generates $46m in Series B round

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Feodora Chiosea
© GettyImages/Feodora Chiosea

Related tags: microbes, Dairy

US endomicrobial-based products producer, Ascus Bioscience, said the US$46m it has secured in a Series B funding round leaves it well positioned to continue expanding its sales and servicing teams, and to advance new and existing products in its product pipeline.

The capital will also go towards the company’s efforts to continue refining its core technology platform and intellectual property foundation.

The funding was led by global investment company Temasek, with participation from other leading investors, Anterra Capital, Formation 8 and Cavallo Ventures, the venture capital arm of Wilbur-Ellis, with additional support from various angel investors.

Boosting animal production and daily gain, cutting methane generation and providing an alternative to antibiotic use are among the goals for the Californian firm's focus on endomicrobial feed additives, Jimmy Owens, chief operating officer, Ascus, told us at IPPE trade show earlier this year.

The company had then only recently launched its first commercial product, for use with dairy cows, targeting Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Mexico. Owens told us back in February the company’s next step for the dairy feed additive would be to seek market entry and regulatory approval in New Zealand and the US. The goal was to bring the product to market in the US in the second half of 2020.

Native microbes

Ascus Bioscience has been working to address what its founders’ saw as an “unmet need​” within the direct-fed microbial market, he said. “We haven’t started to scratch the surface of native microbes in the animal."

Many of the direct-fed microbial [or probiotics] products currently available relate back to a small set of common microorganisms, he said. However, in its development work, the company has recognized more than 55,000 “metabolically active, native microbes”​ for the species it has been exploring.

“We felt there was this huge opportunity to discover, develop and commercialize native microbes in each animal."

The microbes of interest are those not often present in large amounts within the animal, he said.

“They’ve all been less than 1% of the relative abundance of the microbes in there so all we’re actually doing is shifting something from maybe .5% to 1% abundance in the population because that’s what we’ve seen in the higher producing animals,”​ Owens said. “That’s why we feel confident that the microbes will work in those environments – this is the microbe’s job, it’s what it’s wired to do, and it’s been able to overcome any kind of management or regional variability.”

The intention is also to provide another option for producers looking for an alternative to an antibiotic, he said. “The industry is going through a transition, [questions are being asked about] what the appropriate use of antibiotics look like – when and how should we use them,”​ he said.

What the antibiotic was doing was affecting the whole microbial community from the top down,”​ he said. “We can do the bottom-up approach. By understanding the animal’s native biology and those microbial communities we can select for a native microbe that’s going to have the same effect that an antibiotic did but working with the animal’s innate biology.”

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