Could biotechnology pave the way to a healthy microbiome?

Edward Fuchs, co-founder of FOLIUM Science, discusses the future of targeted antibacterial remedies.
calendar icon 23 February 2019
clock icon 6 minute read

Animal Health Investment Europe is a premier investment forum showcasing the most exciting investment opportunities in animal health and nutrition and connecting those businesses with financial investors and strategic corporate partners. Taking place 26 and 27 February, the forum promises to be an exciting insight into innovation in nutritional health, data analytics, sensors and diagnostics.

The Poultry Site has procured a host of investors and emerging innovators taking part in the forum to talk trends, technology and turning startups into thriving businesses in the pig and poultry sectors.

This week, we spoke to Edward Fuchs, Chief Executive and co-founder of FOLIUM Science, and one of the finalists for the Innovation Showcase.

What sets your company apart from others in the market working to develop products aimed at providing a solution for the same challenge?

FOLIUM Science’s Guided Biotics ™ are unique and patented. No other biotechnology in the agricultural space triggers the specific enzymatic reaction in bacteria that causes it to self-digest.

The precision and specificity of Guided Biotics ™ sets them apart from other products that aim to support a healthy microbiome. By designing a targeting system that is based on unique RNA sequences that are only found in the unwanted bacteria, Guided Biotics ™ can selectively remove just the pathogenic bacteria leaving the good bacteria intact.

The applications for Guided Biotics ™ are much wider than other products or services available; they are effective against bacteria whereever they are found: in animals, in aquaculture, on surfaces, on plants, in the soil or in packaged food.

Unlike other products where direct intervention is part of the treatment, Guided Biotics ™ are easy to administer in animal feed or drinking water. As a treatment for plants, Guided Biotics ™ are applied as a topical spray to only those plants infected with spoilage bacteria.

Unlike other products that target unwanted bacteria, FOLIUM Science has demonstrated that Guided Biotics ™ do not lead to a build up of resistance by bacteria and are just as effective against bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

Lastly, Guided Biotics ™ use only natural processes and leave no residual material.

FOLIUM Science has demonstrated that Guided Biotics ™ do not lead to a build up of resistance by bacteria and are just as effective against bacteria resistant to antibiotics

How is your product an innovation on technology that already exists in the industry?

It is increasingly recognised that the health of the microbiome plays a significant role in the wellbeing of animals, plants and the soil, and that the delicate make up of this microbial environment needs to be stable and in balance. Existing interventions include prebiotics, probiotics, vaccines and enzymes, however FOLIUM Science’s Guided Biotics ™ are a new and significant addition to the options. The precision with which unwanted bacteria within a microbiome can be selectively removed and therefore support the health and stability of the microbiome is unique and innovative.

How do Guided Biotics™ make farmers’ lives easier?

Bacterial infections in farmed animals, in aquaculture and in fruit or vegetable crops cause significant declines in productivity and unnecessary waste. FOLIUM Science’s Guided Biotics ™ can selectively remove the bacteria responsible for this waste for the farmer. Not only is animal health and welfare improved but, due to the reduced risk of this challenge, overall output and productivity is supported and improved. Unlike antibiotics, there is no withdrawal period following the use of Guided Biotics ™ as we are using organic organisms, making it unnecessary for farmers to discard stock or alter plans following applications.

For farmers, Guided Biotics ™ are also simple to apply within normal feeding regimes. For animals and fish, they can be added to feed or drinking water, and for topical applications they are applied as a spray.

Have you done any on-farm, commercial-scale trials of your products?

FOLIUM Science has carried out many in-vitro trials across a broad spectrum of unwanted bacteria and three in-vivo trials in chickens, the results of which demonstrate significant (log3 – log5) reductions in Salmonella bacterial colonies in the overall flock and environment, significantly reducing the biosecurity risk. Full-scale farm trials are scheduled for 2019.

Were there specific challenges you faced but have overcome during the development of your products?

One of the greatest challenges in the development of Guided Biotics ™ was to identify where the maximum effectiveness would be achieved within the food supply chain. Because of the breadth of potential application, FOLIUM Science took advice from leading farming co-operatives and strategic animal rearing corporations, and their biggest request was to provide a suitable solution that could be added to feed routines to support their healthy animals. As a result of support from Innovate UK, FOLIUM Science is now running two projects in parallel; the first of which is seeking to control Pseudomonas biofilms on fruit and vegetable crops using Guided Biotics ™ and the second seeks to demonstrate the effectiveness of Guided Biotics ™ as an alternative to the use of antibiotics in animal rearing.

The second significant challenge for FOLIUM Science was to ensure the robustness of the intellectual property and maintain our freedom to operate within the food supply chain. Using in-house expertise, FOLIUM Science reviewed all available literature and was successful in being granted patent protection for its technology in all major food markets.

The third challenge is to deliver the farmers' need of a feed additive through regulatory authorities globally. We have been working with key strategic co-developers in understanding their preferred routes to ensure that these safe, tailored products reach the farmer to be applied as they need.

What type of investor are you aiming to attract?

To commercialise this unique technology, FOLIUM Science continue to look for partnership arrangements with animal nutrition and aquaculture businesses who can provide market knowledge and established routes to market and scale. FOLIUM Science will also require additional support from leaders and investors in biotechnology during the trial programme in 2019 and beyond.

Ryan Johnson

Editor at The Poultry Site

Ryan worked in conservation from 2008 to 2017, during which time he operated a rainbow trout hatchery and helped to maintain public and protected green spaces in Canada for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. As editor of The Poultry Site, he now writes about challenges and opportunities in agriculture across the globe.

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