FrieslandCampina Ingredients - which has been using precision fermentation at scale since 2016 to produce human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) – currently sells a range of ingredients targeting early life nutrition, cell nutrition, active nutrition, medical nutrition and performance nutrition, from galacto-oligosaccharides (prebiotics) and MFGM and lactoferrin to plant proteins (in partnership with AGT Foods).
Emeryville, CA-based Triplebar Bio, a startup founded in 2019 by biochemist Dr Jeremy Agresti, has developed a proprietary, ‘hyper-throughput’ screening platform deploying microfluidics and rapid testing coupled with AI and machine learning to develop production platforms utilizing microbial and mammalian cells to produce high value ingredients for food and nutrition, and biologics for the healthcare market.
"We oversample every position in a microbial genome in a day to find optimized, scalable production hosts..."
‘We’re talking about proteins that confer health benefits such as gut maturation in infants, or immunity in adults’
As part of a multi-year, multi-product and multi-country agreement, the partners will develop multiple bioactive proteins using yeast strains as tiny production factories, Triplebar Bio CEO Maria Cho told FoodNavigator-USA.
While several companies from Perfect Day to Remilk are now producing functional dairy proteins such as whey and casein proteins via precision fermentation, Triplebar and FrieslandCampina are focusing on high-value bioactive proteins found in human or bovine milk, said Cho.
“We’re not disclosing them yet, but we’re talking about proteins that confer health benefits such as gut maturation in infants, or immunity in adults.”
Asked whether they are proteins that have been commercialized before, she said, “In some cases, yes, but they would have been isolated from natural sources [rather than produced by microbial hosts] and in natural sources, bioactive proteins are in very low concentrations, which don’t make them very sustainable.
“Shifting the focus towards making these products through precision fermentation really unlocks unmet market need in adult nutrition, early life nutrition and gives access to these critical proteins to those populations.”
“Dairy ingredients will continue to play a vital role in the future of nutrition as a source of high-quality proteins and prebiotics and these remain our core offering. At the same time, we are continuously exploring new ways that technology and nature can be harnessed to support consumers with special dietary needs – at every stage of life.” Anne Peter Lindeboom, managing director innovation, FrieslandCampina Ingredients
‘Our expertise enables the product and process discovery to scale at orders of magnitude, faster and cheaper than any other company that's out there’
Given the growing number of precision fermentation players using synthetic biology to program microbes (yeast, bacteria, fungi, algae etc) to produce everything from steviol glycosides to collagen, how does Triplebar stand out from the crowd?
According to Cho, Triplebar works with a range of industrially proven host organisms - “the standard workhorses” - and creates libraries that probe entire genomes of information. Its ‘hyper-throughput’ screening system then enables it to optimize over many generations quickly, without requiring a mechanistic understanding of the problem, and effectively “run evolution at hyper-speed," she claimed.
“So, our expertise really enables the product and process discovery to scale at orders of magnitude, faster and cheaper than any other company that's out there, and that's really the key unlock that we've established at Triplebar.
“Rather than approaching biology with a hypothesis, we take a hypothesis-free approach and say what's the phenotype, the output of the thing that we're looking for? And then Triplebar technology enables us to see how biology did it.”
'Billions and billions of biological data sets'
She added: “Triplebar has figured out the critical combination of testing assays and biological organisms and the ability to screen orders of magnitude greater than any other company that is out there, so we can look at more things and generate enough data – billions and billions of biological data sets - to enable AI and ML algorithms to give us key insight into the design space of that organism.”
The depth of screening enables identification of rare changes with large gains while the "low noise" allows the company to capture the small changes needed for optimal performance, she explained. Once improvements are generated, Triplebar uses the improved yeast strain (for example) as a founding population for the next generation, "just like evolution."
Bioidentical proteins to those found in nature
Triplebar – the mathematical symbol for equivalence – was chosen as the company name in part because of its focus on designing platforms to make proteins that are bio-identical to those found in nature, Cho explained.
“So first of all we’re looking at bio-similarity, then we’re looking at efficacy, and then can it be produced cost effectively at scale; we have to make sure that the organisms are evolved to be able to produce at large scale.
“That's one of the key bottlenecks of antimicrobial bioactives for example, because they naturally eat the thing [ie. the microbe] that's making them, so we have to evolve the organisms to be able to scale at commercializable cost points.”
Interested in biomass and precision fermentation?
The 3rd Fermentation-Enabled Alternative Proteins Summit will return to San Francisco January 31-Feb 2 to explore the challenges around scaling-up fermentation-enabled production platforms to commercialize clean-label, animal-free, and regulatory-approved alternative meat, dairy, eggs, seafood and functional protein ingredients.