Mining the microbiome: Nutreco and BiomEdit pair up on next gen feed additive development

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Andrew Brookes
© GettyImages/Andrew Brookes

Related tags microbiome BiomEdit Elanco Animal Health metabolites

Dutch animal nutrition and fish feed player, Nutreco, and BiomEdit, a spinout from Elanco Animal Health, are teaming up on long-term strategic research work as well as engaging in a commercial partnership around microbiome technology.

The collaborative alliance involves the discovery, development, and commercialization of “the next generation of ultra-specialty feed additives”​ - a new category called Biome-actives. They will be developed using BiomEdit’s microbiome science and bioinformatics platform.   

The partners outlined how the combination of the startup’s technology with Nutreco’s customer access and distribution capabilities means the alliance has the potential to send the animal nutrition industry on a totally new trajectory.

Established in April 2022, and headquartered in Fishers, Indiana, in the US, BiomEdit leverages the assets and technology of Elanco and Ginkgo Bioworks​. It was launched with a $40M Series A funding round that saw participation from Ferment, Viking Global Investors, and Anterra Capital.

The startup is focused on the development of animal health products through the exploitation of microbiome science. It wants to improve animal health, animal protein production and livestock disease monitoring. Its cell programming platform forms the foundation of its R&D program, utilizing high throughput sequencing and data analytics to rapidly discover and screen novel beneficial bacteria, peptides, and metabolites.

Mining the microbiome

Instead of focusing on microbiome composition and how to affect it, mining the microbiome to find microbial functions that will benefit the animal’s physiology can unlock real progress in relation to boosting the welfare, health, and productivity of farm animals, according to Nutreco’s chief science officer, David Bravo.

"Biome-actives comprise a category of brand-new active ingredients based on the beneficial functions we find in the animal gut, or microbiome. In the past, scientists believed that by understanding the composition of the gut microbiome, they would be able to manipulate it to the benefit of the animal. But after years of research, more and more scientists are moving from a focus on the composition of the gut to the metabolites that gut bacteria produce.

"To develop Biome-active ingredients through this collaboration, first, we define our industry issue, related to animal performance, health or welfare. We mine the microbiome, observe what’s happening within it and select the function that we believe may address our specific issue. Then we develop the products that can convey this beneficial function to another animal through feed, to help that animal overcome the issue we’re targeting. These products can be proteins, such as enzymes, or can be microbes, such as probiotic bacteria, or their metabolites, for example. We grow the products through fermentation, in a similar way to how beer or other probiotics and enzymes are produced."

Antibiotic reduction 

The products are poised to answer the sustainability and health challenges in aquaculture, poultry, swine and cattle – and significantly reduce the need for antibiotics in animals, he said. 

"Since we start the process by defining the problem we want to target, we know that our resulting product will be effective and relevant for farmers and their animals. And we know that Biome-actives are extremely suitable for addressing typical issues that occur when antibiotics are taken out of the feed and cannot be used.

"Antibiotics have a significant influence on the microbiome and its function; so any alternative must also impact the microbiome and its function. By mining the microbiome itself, we can replicate, amplify or activate the beneficial functions or activities we need. And, even better than antibiotics, which, by definition, kill bacteria (including good bacteria in the microbiome) and are not very precise, Biome-actives enable us to take a very targeted approach, finding solutions that do not work the same way as antibiotics – so, don’t kill bacteria – but provide more positive functions. These could include solutions that help animals to cope with a toxin produced by pathogens, reduce inflammation, or improve general gut health and make animals more resilient."

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