Embion, a spin-off of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), is manufacturing the first volumes of its patented bioactive product, branded as Prembion.
Destined initially for the poultry industry, this hydrolysis of brewers’ spent grains is claimed to promote microbiome modulation, providing a new cost-effective option for producers looking for antibiotic alternatives.
Embion told FeedNavigator that in vitro trials had shown Prembion to encourage the growth of bacteria that are considered beneficial for animal health.
“These results are very promising as they help us to target the high potential area of microbiome modulation. More trials are planned to consolidate this evidence. There is also evidence to suggest that some of the nutrients contained within Prembion can boost overall animal health,” Georgios Savoglidis, co-founder and CEO of Embion, told this publication.
Valorizing low value biomass
Prembion is made from a single raw material – brewers’ spent grain – which undergoes a biocatalytic process, yielding an ingredient with a composition that includes hydrolyzed fiber, protein, oils and minerals.
The choice of raw material coupled with Embion’s rapid prototyping technology combine to make this an ingredient that combines affordability and functionality – according to the biotech firm.
“Our first customer is buying Prembion because of its performance in terms of animal growth, as well as its affordability,” said Savoglidis.
Embion says its proprietary prototyping technology accelerates the time from discovery to commercial production by up to 80% – reducing a five-year development program to one year.
Rapid prototyping explained
The result of more than 10 years of research, Embion’s technology came out of an CHF 18m (US$19.7m) funded project focused on the valorization of biomass.
“Essentially, we invented a method of extracting bio-polymers from food and drink sources in such a way that they have very targeted functionality,” said Savoglidis.
Proprietary catalysts that accelerate innovation to make it affordable and functional are at the core of the prototyping technology, Savoglidis explained.
“The ‘magic’ of the functionality comes from the combination of nature and technology in the form of our proprietary catalysts. These resemble enzymes but are designed from the ground up to be more efficient, enabling rapid prototyping.
“It is like we are opening a pathway to connect the raw material to a new bioactive ingredient. Our catalyst breaks down the material and makes it more bioavailable,” he said.
80 new bioactives
In addition to Prembion, Embion has generated other new complex bioactives that it says are ready for immediate commercialization.
Whilst Savoglidis said he couldn’t disclose further details due to customer confidentiality, he hinted that Embion was working, among others, with a major brewery using by-products other than spent grains and with a food brand, to process food waste.
“We also have our own innovation bank – grains, fruit, plants etc. from 20 different raw materials. By applying our prototyping technology to these we have generated 80 products with potential microbiome modulation functionality,” he said.
Although Embion has seen Prembion right through from conception to commercialization, the company will most likely look at licensing arrangements for future products.
“We have a flexible business model. At the start we were committed to going all the way to production with our first product. Eventually, we would be interested in developing and licensing the technology,” said Savoglidis.