Brightseed lands US$68M to accelerate AI-powered exploration of plant compounds’ health impact
16 May 2022 --- Brightseed – creator of Forager, a platform that illuminates the link between specific plant compounds and human health outcomes – has netted US$68 million in series B funding led by Temasek.
The new funding will enable Brightseed to advance natural compound discovery and clinical validation, and launch the company’s first FDA-GRAS ingredient from a new commercialization center in Raleigh, North Carolina, US.
“One of Forager’s key benefits is its ability to identify the most commercially viable source of natural bioactives cataloged in our compound library,” a company spokesperson tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“Health-forward food brands and the natural products industry have suffered from a lack of data and standardized practices to understand potency and purity for a consistent customer experience.”
“As purity of extracts and quality increases, so does cost, and that is prohibitive to wide-scale adoption and accessibility. Brightseed solves for that, and our first discovery is a case study in practice.”
To date, Forager has mapped more than two million plant compounds – “20 times more than existing scientific literature” – and dozens are in various stages of validation across multiple health territories, including metabolic health, digestive health, cognitive health, sugar management, maternal health and immunity.
Accelerated discovery of health compounds
Brightseed – which is touting a “clear path forward for clinical validation” – stresses that the lack of scientific insight into the molecular basis of specifically how food has an impact on health has significantly limited innovation.
Created by Dr. Lee Chae, a former researcher at the Stanford Carnegie Institute of Plant Biology, Forager systematically identifies natural bioactives and maps their connection to human health benefits at an “unprecedented depth and rate.”
“This accelerated discovery of health-benefiting compounds has potential implications for food, agriculture, nutrition policy and nature-based drug design,” details the company.
“Nature holds an incredibly rich and largely uncharted source of powerful, natural bioactives that create health benefits in humans, and we’re now able to access and integrate them into products for food and health industries,” says Jim Flatt, co-founder and CEO of Brightseed.
“Discovering and mapping natural bioactives to human health benefits was just the first step for Brightseed. Now, we’re launching clinically-studied ingredients and insights to illuminate the hidden potential in nature to restore human health.”
Upcycling hemp for health-boosting bioactives
Natural bioactives are health-activating, small molecule compounds that plants use to communicate with their environment.
Plant bioactives show up as curcumin in turmeric, caffeine in tea, the active ingredient in aspirin, and even in some cancer drugs. “Science has long known that plant bioactives are critical to human health, yet 99% remain unknown and uncharted,” highlights Brightseed.
Brightseed’s first discovery – two bioactive compounds identified in upcycled hemp hulls – will launch later this year as an FDA GRAS whole-food ingredient for gut health. “Hemp is an incredibly sustainable, carbon capturing and under-utilized crop, and this discovery illuminates another part of its value for human consumption,” notes the company spokesperson.
The compounds are N-trans-caffeoyltyramine (NCT) and N-trans-feruloyltyramine (NFT), which demonstrated the ability to clear fat from the livers of mice and in human cells. These compounds were identified in more than 80 plant sources.
“NCT and NFT have shown remarkable activity to influence liver health, metabolism and gut health in preclinicals,” details the spokesperson.
“As we investigate the therapeutic potential of these compounds, we are making these nutrient-rich ingredients accessible to the marketplace. We will be eager to share more to come on specifics when we go to market.”
Scaling research facilities
To support the launch of Brightseed’s ingredient business, the company is opening a second location in the “Research Triangle Park” of Raleigh, North Carolina.
Brightseed’s Science Center in South San Francisco will continue to be the home of Brightseed’s plant library, technology stack and compound discovery efforts – informed by metabolomics, bioinformatics, natural products chemistry, biomedicine, and translational and clinical research teams.
In upcoming developments, Brightseed expects to expand its knowledge of the natural product world through mapping fungi and beneficial bacteria used in fermented foods and probiotics.
Brightseed’s food and nutrition industry partners include Danone and Pharmavite, maker of Nature Made vitamins.
Earlier this year, Brightseed linked up with olam food ingredients to uncover which black pepper and garlic varieties deliver the highest levels of bioactives.
The specialist has also previously worked with Ocean Spray Cranberries to profile compounds in cranberries and their specific effects on human health.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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