Brightseed announces first AI-powered discovery of phytonutrients targeting liver & metabolic health

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© Lindama / Getty Images
© Lindama / Getty Images

Related tags Artificial intelligence A.I. phytonutrient phytonutrients

AI-phytonutrient pioneer Brightseed has announced the identification of two natural compounds with promising bioactive function for liver and metabolic health, noting the compounds appear to be strong candidates for nutraceuticals.

The San Francisco-based company said that its A.I. Forager platform identified N-trans caffeoyltyramine (NCT) and N-trans-feruloyltyramine (NFT) as acting through a novel biological mechanism governing the accumulation and clearance of liver fat.

Brightseed will now move ahead with clinical trials with the NCT and NFT in 2021, and Dr Jim Flatt, Brightseed co-founder and CEO, told NutraIngredients-USA that the company is “actively pursuing broad IP for this important discovery through a combination of claims for beneficial compositions comprising NCT, NFT and related compounds that show beneficial activity, methods of using these compositions for improving health conditions, including metabolic health and selected processing methods to yield more cost-effective or more organoleptically-desirable compositions of NCT and NFT.

“Brightseed currently has 8 patents pending related to this discovery,”​ added Dr Flatt.


Speaking to NutraIngredients-USA in 2020, Dr Flatt explained that the Forager platform is designed to, “gain a much deeper understanding of the compounds, what’s called the dark matter of nutrition: these 99% of compounds that have yet to be characterized. With that, we’re able to create a much broader library of compounds from which to make discoveries.

“We have a digital model of human health to make predictions, and this is where a lot of the artificial intelligence comes in to be able to make increasingly accurate predictions about the functions and benefits of these small molecules, these phytonutrients,”​ he added.

Forager found NCT and NFT in over 80 common edible plant sources.

Brightseed has been in the headlines several times in 2020 with partnerships with Danone​ and Pharmavite​.

Commenting on the discovery of NCT and NFT, Dr Flatt said the company has several commercialization options available and they are “actively evaluating these options in parallel to our clinical and regulatory work”​.


Preclinical studies revealed that NCT and NFT act as potent activators of HNF4a, a central metabolic regulator that is impaired by elevated levels of fat in the bloodstream resulting from chronic overeating.

Mice fed a high fat diet and also consuming doses of NCT and NFT experienced a restoration of the proper function of HNF4a, including maintaining healthy lipid and sugar levels in the bloodstream to normalize organ function. These results were confirmed using a cell-based human insulin promoter activation assay.

“The potent activity of these natural compounds on the central metabolic regulator has never been observed in scientific literature,”​ said Dr. Carol Lynn Berseth, Senior Vice President of Medical and Scientific Affairs at Brightseed.

“In addition, the clearance of fat cells from the liver is a hugely promising action, even in preclinical stages. Brightseed enables health and wellness brands to identify new natural solutions much more efficiently.”

The pre-clinical data about NCT and NFT was presented in the fall of 2020 as a poster session at The Liver Meeting Digital Experience hosted by American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, and published as abstract #1679 in Hepatology​: Vol 72, No S1​.

Liver health

The liver is the body’s primary metabolic organ and a healthy liver helps avoid metabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

NAFLD is the most prevalent liver abnormality in Western countries and parallels the epidemic of metabolic syndrome, obesity and diabetes.  Frequently disabling and occasionally leading to cirrhosis, fatty liver disease currently costs the US health care system about $32 billion annually​.

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