Founded by mathematician and computational biologist Dr Nora Khaldi, Nuritas draws upon three data sets: literature on disease biology; a proprietary peptide library amassed through several years of research on plants, algae, animals, fungi, and bacteria; and in-house phenotypic screening of novel peptides in different types of human cells.
Using its AI platform, which is getting smarter all the time as more information is fed back into it, Nuritas seeks to identify peptides (short strings of amino acids) in plants that might confer specific health benefits through targeting specific molecular pathways, explained Khaldi, who is moving to the East Coast to support the company’s US ambitions.
“The US is really the natural next step for us because the US is our biggest market today, a lot of our partners are US partners, and a lot of the launches that are going to happen this year are US launches,” she told FoodNavigator-USA. “Some of the manufacturing companies we are working with [to scale up production of bioactive peptides] are also based in the US as well.”
‘What we're doing is identifying the peptide within the protein and releasing it’
So how smart is the company’s discovery platform?
Nuritas can now predict with significant levels of accuracy (63%+) the peptides’ efficacy (will they confer said health benefit?). But just as importantly, says Khaldi, it can also predict whether they are bioavailable (with 80%+ accuracy), and stable enough to retain their health properties after undergoing high heat or harsh processing conditions.
“What's interesting about bioactive peptides is that if you eat the source material [eg. rice, fava beans, peas etc], you don't get the [specific] benefits [of that particular peptide],” said Khaldi, who raised $45m in a series B round in November, and is now hiring leadership positions for the Connecticut office in business development, marketing, regulatory and science.
“It's not that the peptide is floating there...” she told FoodNavigator-USA. “The peptide literally is [locked] in a protein.
"What we're doing is identifying the peptide within the protein and releasing it. So our technology identifies the bioactive peptides first, and then it tells us how to access those peptides within the proteins or what enzymes to use [to chop up the proteins to get to the peptides].”
Once promising peptides have been identified, they are then subjected to in-vitro testing for initial validation before Nuritas explores options for scaling up production, and makes the decision whether to embark on more costly pre-clinical and clinical trials.
Prediction phase to pre-clinical phase in 6-12 months
Timelines vary, but Nuritas can now get from the prediction phase (we think peptide X will deliver benefit Y) to the pre-clinical phase in a matter of months, says Khaldi, who is commercializing a suite of bioactive peptides in-house targeting everything from heart health to better sleep, but is also working with high-profile partners including Mars, Nestlé, BASF, Sumitomo Corporation and Pharmavite.
The nature of collaborations can vary, with IP either staying with Nuritas or being shared. The peptides themselves could be produced by the partners or by Nuritas via contract manufacturers, while either party might conduct the clinical trials.
Stress, sleep, immune-modulation, blood glucose control…
So which areas are food, supplement, and personal care companies that Nuritas is talking to most interested in?
“Stress and sleep are big areas, along with immuno-modulation,” says Khaldi. “But glucose management is a huge area of opportunity.”
The first products to market are PeptiYouth, a dual-action peptide shown to reduce redness and the appearance of wrinkles by increasing collagen and elastin production and decreasing inflammation; and muscle-health ingredient PeptiStrong, a combination of peptides with potential to increase protein synthesis, decrease muscle atrophy, and decrease inflammation, she explained.
“There will be global launches with PeptiYouth this year," said Khaldi. "And PeptiStrong will be in the dietary supplement and sport nutrition [arenas first, then] moving into food by the end of this year, beginning of next year.”
Next in the pipeline is PeptiForce - a combination of peptides in peas that support blood glucose management – that has already been shown to reduce A1C levels in a double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical study with otherwise healthy, but prediabetic adults, with the next clinical trial to explore the most effective dose.
Other peptides or peptide combinations are in various stages of development, as per the chart below: