Probiotic wins University of Guelph innovation of year award

The biopeptide technology reduces spread of harmful bacteria in livestock, and could have human uses

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Ground-breaking work using probiotics to reduce the spread of harmful bacteria in livestock has been selected as the University of Guelph’s 2018 Innovation of the Year.

The innovative biopeptide technology is the culmination of 15 years of research led by Guelph food science professor emeritus Mansel Griffiths and is now being commercialized by MicroSintesis Inc. The Canadian life sciences company has just announced the launch of a new product using the technology, Nuvio for Poultry, to help prevent necrotic enteritis.

Why it matters: Increasing pressure to reduce antibiotic use in livestock and poultry production means the hunt is on for acceptable and effective alternatives. This technology is broad spectrum and targets the virulence, not growth of pathogens.

Here’s how it works.

Bacteria use a chemical mechanism called quorum sensing to communicate with each other and cause illness in the host body. Griffiths discovered that probiotics produce metabolites that are able to stop this communications system, boosting natural immune defenses in the gut and making it easier for livestock and poultry to fight off infection and stay healthy during stressful events in their lives.

“One of the beauties of this technology is that it has a broad spectrum of activity against both gram positive and gram negative pathogens – the cell systems communications it is targeting is universal,” said Griffiths, who holds the Dairy Farmers of Ontario/NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Dairy Microbiology at Guelph.

“We have worked with salmonella, campylobacter, clostridiums and E.coli and we haven’t had a situation as of yet where it wasn’t effective,” he added. “As of yet, we haven’t seen the development of any resistance to these products, unlike antibiotics, and the chances of organisms becoming resistant is very small.”

MicroSintesis became involved when the technology was ready to move into commercialization and began working from the innovation side to increase the productivity of the metabolites in fermentation and then boosting production. The company began by targeting E.coli in pigs and has since moved to other diseases and other species.

“Mansel has done a step-change in how probiotics work by focusing on the metabolites they produce and not the live cell itself,” said MicroSintesis CEO Hannah McIver. “We are reducing communications to bacteria and stimulating natural flora, resulting in broad spectrum reduction of diseases and better welfare.”

Disease prevention has both positive welfare and economic implications at the farm level, and according to Griffiths, data in pigs has shown biopeptide technology can improve weight gain as well as prevent disease.

MicroSintesis brought Nuvio for Swine to market last year, a dried fermentation product distributed through Bio Agri Mix that meets Raised Without Antibiotics requirements and helps pigs stay healthy during the stressful weaning and post-weaning periods.

The newly released Nuvio for Poultry is a water soluble product that reduces the severity of pathogenic bacteria in poultry while simultaneously boosting natural gut flora. Necrotic enteritis is a chronic bacterial disease in broiler flocks with a high mortality rate that is currently most typically treated with antibiotics.

According to MicroSintesis, mortality from the disease was reduced by 34 per cent in a recent challenge study using Nuvio for Poultry.

The company has also entered the pet health market with products that reduce diarrhea in dogs and chronic diarrhea in cats, and although they have high interest in moving into ruminant livestock, McIver said the biggest application will be for human health.

“We are already targeting pathogens in our labs for humans; our biggest targets are anything gastrointestinal,” she said. “Over 1.5 million children die per year of foodborne illness in developing countries and making a difference in reducing that would be a lifetime goal.”

Medical doctor Maira Medellin-Peña was a co-recipient of the award together with Griffiths in recognition of her contributions to the work.

MicroSintesis currently has 11 full-time employees across Canada, the majority in Prince Edward Island where their research and development activities and manufacturing take place. Griffiths serves as the company’s Chief Scientific Advisory Officer.

“The financial and health benefits (of this technology) are boundless,” McIver believes. “We are incredibly proud of Mansel’s research; the applications could be fundamentally shift-changing for the industry.”

It is estimated that market applications of Griffiths’ technology could be worth more than $12 billion.

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