Endolysins and the dramatic early-life impact of FORC3

Axitan is a new biotech company that develops non-antibiotic feed additive solutions
calendar icon 3 April 2024
clock icon 4 minute read
Al Zimmerman, Axitan CEO

Editor's note: As previously reported, Axitan has developed a groundbreaking approach for addressing economically important bacteria that impact the livestock industry by using naturally occurring antimicrobial enzymes, known as endolysins. I thought it would be timely to check in with their new CEO, Al Zimmerman, to see how things are progressing with their first product, FORC3®, which has been developed to target Clostridium perfringens, the bacteria that causes necrotic enteritis in poultry. 

In my first conversation with Axitan’s founder, Dr. Kane Miller, I was fascinated to learn that endolysins form the core of Axitan’s business. Can you tell me a little bit more about what an endolysin is and their unique qualities?

Hi Sarah, great to meet you. Yes, endolysins form the core of our work.

To explain, endolysins are proteins that are produced within infected cells and are the mechanism that eat through/digest the infected cell’s wall so that the virus’s progeny can be released. They are highly efficient enzymes that only work on their intended bacterial target and do not impact other cells.

One of the most exciting features of endolysins is the ultra-low risk of bacteria developing resistance to them – especially when compared to conventional antibiotics.

Through our technology platform, we have developed a unique way to firstly identify, characterize and manufacture endolysin candidates, and then formulate them with other naturally derived ingredients to produce livestock performance improving products.

How are you applying them in FORC3?

As mentioned, once we have promising endolysins, we formulate them with other natural ingredients to create products capable of delivering performance uplifts that are important to live operations managers - whether that be improved FCR, meat yield or reduced mortality rates. This, of course, is in addition to the baseline protection that endolysins provide against a specific pathogen. With FORC3, we have combined endolysins targeting Clostridium perfringens with fatty acids, and microalgae - a fantastic source of natural biomolecules – to provide significant benefit to poultry.

The formulated FORC3 product is a dried powder delivered as a GRAS affirmed feed additive for inclusion at the feed mill.

Axitan has now completed FORC3 trials on close to half a million birds, what are the main takeaways?

Firstly, that our challenge trial data gave us the full confidence that FORC3 could manage CP in the field. Secondly, in the subsequent field trials with healthy flocks, we have been excited to see how the product has impacted production on the performance side. We have consistently seen across many different production models, both NAE & One Health, important improvements in performance. In field trials with healthy flocks, we are seeing around 4 points of FCR improvement and mortality reductions of 2-3% which translate to significant overall cost improvements for operations.

Thirdly, on deeper analysis, the most dramatic findings to date in our trials with healthy flocks has been in 7 and 14 day mortality, a metric that has suffered significantly with the removal of infeed antibiotics. FORC3 has been shown to bring early mortality down to around 1.5%, even in flocks that do not have a CP challenge. As you know, early life mortality has been a consistent issue for NAE producers in recent years. By adding FORC3 into the starter diet, producers are able to bring next level nutrition and pathogen control at the early stage that can be counted upon.

Do you see FORC3 as potentially being a silver bullet for addressing broader early life issues?

When you see early-life mortality rates consistently brought down, in addition to early-life performance improvements, as a result of introducing FORC3 into the feed from day 1, then the results build a compelling picture. They very much set the foundation for the broader meat yield and FCR benefits that have been recorded over the lifetime of the bird.

What's next for FORC3 and Axitan?

On FORC3, we are continuing our transition to complex wide trials and sales. On the Company side, our focus is on building out our platform in terms of the number of pathogens we are targeting and the formats in which they are delivered – whether dried feed, gel or water – so that we are best able to deliver performance improving products across the life spectrum of poultry and other livestock species.

Sarah Mikesell


Sarah Mikesell grew up on a five-generation family farming operation in Ohio, USA, where her family still farms. She feels extraordinarily lucky to get to do what she loves - write about livestock and crop agriculture. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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