Editing gut bacteria is the next frontier for CRISPR

Editing the genomes of our gut bacteria will “create a whole new field of biology” in the coming decades, a Nobel prize-winning geneticist has said at the opening of a London summit on the future of human genetic engineering.

Jennifer Doudna, from the University of California Berkeley, said that tweaking the DNA of the bacteria that live in our guts has the potential to help us understand and combat many diseases in humans.

Conditions from Alzheimer’s to asthma have been linked to the composition of our microbiome but the population of our gut is difficult to study and treatments designed to alter its composition so far are imprecise and based on taking faecal transplants.

Yet, said Doudna, there was a clear medical and scientific need to control the microbiome. “Microbiomes are increasingly indicated in all sorts of connections to human disease,” she said. “So for example, we know that there’s an important role of the human gut microbiome in diseases that include infections, and even neurodegeneration.”

Doudna helped create the precision editing technology known as Crispr, which has revolutionised the field of genetics, and could, she said, now be applied here too.

Crispr is going to enable not only some exciting individual applications, but really I think it will create a whole new field of biology because it’s going to open the door to understanding how these microbiomes behave in a way that has not previously been possible,” she said.

And not just in human guts. She argued that the technology might also have applications in animals, for instance by creating cows that produce less methane, a greenhouse gas. “In livestock, there is a powerful connection between the microbiome found in the cow rumen and the generation of methane. And surprisingly much of it is actually exhaled from these cows. It leads to about 30 per cent of the global annual emissions of methane,” Doudna said.

The possibilities for understanding and controlling gut bacteria offered by Crispr editing meant we should take it seriously. It was plausible, though, that it would first see genuine success in a different animal. “Having the ability to manipulate the cow rumen microbiome using Crispr would be an extraordinary advance, because we could actually change this in a calf, that would have an altered microbiome over the course of its entire lifetime,” she said.

Preliminary work suggested this was feasible, and had some surprising additional benefits, she said. “It reduces the methane emissions, which is very important. But also, it’s attractive to farmers because it means that there’s more efficient conversion of feed into food.”

Doudna was speaking in an opening video message for the 2023 Human Genome Editing Summit at the Francis Crick Institute in London. Delegates from around the world will consider the scientific, technical and ethical implications of their work. The field has rapidly matured in the past decade, thanks in a large part to Doudna’s technology.

Crispr works like molecular scissors, giving scientists the ability to seek out a strand of DNA, chop it out and replace it. Although editing of genomes was possible before, it was vastly more cumbersome.

Since its development in 2012, Crispr has become a standard laboratory tool, as well as a source of promising therapies. Among the other topics under consideration were the success of Crispr-based treatments to tackle sickle cell anaemia, a crippling genetic blood disorder. Approaches based on gene editing have produced significant success but the cost is prohibitive for much of the world, which is important because the condition is historically most prevalent in equatorial populations.

2022 Uncategorized

SNIPR Biome further strengthens CRISPR/Cas IP portfolio with patent grant

  • Patent issuance adds to SNIPR’s extensive intellectual property portfolio, comprising more than 60 granted worldwide patents, including in the USA and Europe
  • Patent covers the use of killing of bacteria at least 1000-fold in a microbiome using any CRISPR/Cas system
  • USPTO has also issued a Notice of Allowance for methods of using CRISPR lytic phage

Copenhagen, December 22 2022: SNIPR Biome ApS (“SNIPR” or “the Company”), the company pioneering CRISPR-based microbial gene therapy, announces today the grant of a new patent by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This patent represents a further addition to the Company’s extensive intellectual property portfolio, comprising more than 60 granted patents worldwide covering SNIPR’s technology platform, which enables editing of prokaryotes using CRISPR/Cas.

The USPTO has granted patent number US11,517,582, which covers the use of CRISPR/Cas systems to achieve selective killing of bacteria by at least 1000-fold in situations where bacteria are growing in a mixed population. This patent covers the use of any type of CRISPR/Cas.

In natural environments, such as in gut microbiomes, bacteria are found growing in mixed populations and it has been difficult to selectively target individual bacterial species with conventional broad-spectrum antibiotics. SNIPR’s CRISPR technology provides a highly selective way to target individual bacterial strains for killing which can be useful for the prevention and treatment of any indication where a specific bacterial strain is the underlying cause of a disease, such as an infection.

SNIPR has also received an allowance by the USPTO indicating that it will shortly grant a US patent broadly covering methods of using CRISPR lytic phage, by use of any CRISPR/Cas system and for any application (US 15/817,144). This expands the Company’s portfolio protecting CRISPR lytic phage. In August 2022, SNIPR was awarded patent number US11,400,110 which covers lytic phage armed with CRISPR gene editing systems. CRISPR and phage lysis of target bacteria is a potent combination for therapeutics, with potential for broad application, including the targeting of any bacteria for any medical use.

Dr Christian Grøndahl, Co-founder and CEO of SNIPR Biome, commented: “This expansion of our patent estate strengthens our already extensive intellectual property portfolio covering the use of CRISPR/Cas to edit prokaryotes. SNIPR Biome has exclusive, worldwide rights to this patent estate for medical applications, which supports our pipeline and lead program SNIPR001, a CRISPR-armed bacteriophage cocktail that targets the prevention of antibiotic-resistant E. coli infections in hematological cancer patients.  We will continue our pioneering work in this field as we advance our mission of developing CRISPR-based medicines for the benefit of patients suffering from life-threatening diseases.”

Earlier this year, the Company made its IP available for academic and non-profit research use without a written license. Parties interested in licensing SNIPR’s intellectual property should contact the Company at


FOLIUM Science CEO Ed Fuchs presents at Agri-TechE REAP Conference

Agri-TechE’s REAP conference took place on November 8th 2022 to review how the meeting of real and virtual worlds is creating a new generation of technologies that are ‘making sense of agriculture’ and that can provide the intelligence needed to take the best action on-farm. Every year Agri-Tech E handpicks some of the most exciting early-stage agri-tech companies to take part in the REAP Start-up Showcase.

This year’s Start-up Showcase included FOLIUM Science’s carve out investment opportunity FLOURISH, a new type of crop protection and seed treatment that will improve yields and boost productivity.

FLOURISH makes ‘bad’ bacteria self-destruct to create a healthy microbiome

Bacterial crop diseases cause devasting losses. Some are controlled by antibiotics, which results in damage to beneficial organisms in the microbiome and the risk of resistance. FLOURISH offers an alternative plant protection strategy. By disrupting the metabolism of the pathogen, it enables natural competition to create a healthy growing environment, which boosts yield.

Ed Fuchs is a Co-founder of FLOURISH, a carve-out from FOLIUM Science, which has developed a Guided Biotics® technology for animal health and now has a number of product candidates ready for commercialisation via multinational feed additives distributors, following successful safety assessments by regulators.

Ed comments: “Plants extract nutrition from their environment using complex interactions with microorganisms in the soil. The importance of this microbiome is increasingly recognised in human and animal health.

“Our technology uses either bacteria or phages (virus particles) that are highly selective for a particular type of bacteria, such as Pseudomonas, to share a specific DNA sequence with the target that redirects its immune system, causing the pathogen to self-destruct. As the sequence is very specific and targeted to the particular bacteria it will not damage organisms that are vital for plant growth. This process therefore gives the beneficial organisms a competitive advantage.”

In trials with tomatoes the use of Guided Biotics® was shown to reduce Pseudomonas syringae and Botrytis cinerea by more than 99.9% and double the weight of the tomato yield.

Ed explains:“Our first product candidate uses an epiphyte (a naturally occurring bacteria from the tomato plant), to share the DNA sequence which gets rid of the Pseudomonas Syringae. The epiphyte also naturally produces molecules to remove Botrytis (fungus) and the combination enables the yield improvement.”

Over 12 million hectares of tomatoes are grown globally and they are at risk of bacterial canker which is caused by Pseudomonas syringae. Canker is also a serious disease of stone fruits such as cherries and peaches, showing the technology has a significant global market across many disease targets.

The use of phage particles is already regarded as safe by major territories and is being increasingly used in diagnostics and medication. The ‘reprogramming’ uses the gene editing technology CRISPR, which is recognised as distinct from genetic modification as it does not introduce alien DNA into the organism. Regulatory reform already underway is likely to support the wider use of this technology.

Ed continues: “FOLIUM has benefited from funding and due diligence from Innovate UK; with the necessary funding it has the potential to be spun-out as a plant-focussed company addressing a global crop protection market valued at £50bn.

“FOLIUM benefited greatly from the profile gained at the REAP 2018 Start-Up Showcase and I hope to repeat this success with FLOURISH.”

Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-TechE, comments: “Antibiotic resistance is a global ‘One Health’ problem and FLOURISH is offering an innovative alternative. I am sure that it will attract significant interest from the agri-tech innovation ecosystem. REAP has provided profile for many exciting early-stage businesses with collaborators, end users and investors. 14 of the companies previously featured have collectively raised over £92 Million in the last three years.”


FOLIUM Science included in Department for Internatioinal Trade “One Health” initiative

FOLIUM Science, alongside other leading UK science and technology businesses is proud to be part of an initiative that showcases the UK’s world-class science and research capabilities to address global challenges and build a future which is greener, safer, and healthier.

The brochure has been produced by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and is to be launched at the World One Health Congress in Singapore and IHF World Hospital Congress in Dubai.

The aim of the initiative is to attract investors and collaborators from around the world. The UK offers one of the strongest and most productive health, life, agricultural and environmental science sectors in the world with a high concentration of world leading talent, reference laboratories, innovative research programmes, and ample opportunities for value creation through partnering, deal-making or investment.

FOLIUM Science is well placed to tackle two of the global challenges
highlighted by the ONE HEALTH initiative. Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and climate change are both enormous challenges for animal farming. The animal’s gut bacteria are central to both gas emissions and an unhealthy microbiome.

FOLIUM Science’s patented technology, “Guided Biotics®”
improves gut health by removing unwanted bacteria and regulating its metabolism. Guided Biotics® reduce the need to use antibiotics, reduce GHG emissions and improve productivity for our farming community.


FOLIUM Science achieves major commercial milestone

Bristol based biotech business FOLIUM Science has completed an important milestone in its commercialisation phase as it continues to develop its ground-breaking technology platform that selectively removes unwanted bacteria from an animal’s gut.

This patented technology, called Guided Biotics®, will remove the need to use antibiotics in farmed animals. In a world where antimicrobial resistance is a global problem, where antibiotics are increasingly ineffective, unacceptable to consumers and restricted in use, FOLIUM Science’s revolutionary biotechnology helps to solve these problems by supporting positive animal nutrition and sustainable animal farming.

In collaboration with a leading multinational animal nutrition partner, FOLIUM Science can now build on promising in-vivo trial work and begin the process of bringing the first product to market.

Using the Guided Biotics® technology, trials in poultry flocks have shown incredibly promising results in reducing Salmonella. Food poisoning continues to be a problem across the world, with salmonellosis cases now increasing in many countries. Non-typhoidal salmonellosis is reported to cause over one million infections, 19,000 hospitalizations and over 400 deaths annually in the US, with some Salmonella strains showing antibiotic resistance.

Salmonella in the gut of a chicken is difficult to control, however unlike the action of antibiotics that will kill the good bacteria in the gut as well as the bad, Guided Biotics® selectively remove only the undesirable bacteria, leaving the beneficial bacteria intact. This supports a positive gut microbiome by allowing these beneficial bacteria to thrive.

Guided Biotics® technology represents a new category in animal feed additives and functional nutrition, that can directly benefit animal well-being by supporting a healthy microbiome.

The development of modelling techniques to quickly assess the effectiveness of new products is an innovative tool that allows the FOLIUM Science team to screen alternatives and identify the versions that are most likely to be successful. This creates an efficient product delivery process that can be taken forward into live trials.

Creating strong and focussed teams in each development area has also proved fruitful where technical specialists and support staff work closely together to share ideas and improve expertise across the business.

The new partnership and investment will enable FOLIUM Science to move to the next stage of commercialisation and not only develop the application of Guided Biotics® technology in poultry but continue the development of future programmes that include applications in cattle, swine and aquaculture. Development platforms in the pipeline also include products to modulate an animal’s microbiome to give the friendly bacteria beneficial advantages over pathogens in the gut.

FOLIUM Science CEO Ed Fuchs says “I am delighted to have achieved this breakthrough which was part of the strategic roadmap created 4 years ago when the business was founded.  Our goals and focus on the Guided Biotic Platform are fully aligned to the multinational partner’s animal nutrition business unit. This validates the market opportunity and unlocks well established capability to deliver Guided Biotic products in market. 

It is a credit to the FOLIUM Science team how they have evolved the Guided Biotic platform to application in the most challenging real-world environment.  We can also celebrate our own expansion of capacity in the move to new laboratory facilities at Science Creates in Bristol.  These facilities enable us to achieve our vision and expand into modulating gut microbiomes to reduce waste and improve productivity.

The founders are also excited to be working on similar technology for food processing, plant health and human dietary requirements.  These applications are a mere walk in the park!”   

The joint development agreement involves an undisclosed sum for a multi-year investment and commercialisation rights to BiomElix One®, a feed additive for poultry and other species that targets all Salmonella serotypes.

The benefits of working with a major multinational with a very strong research ethic  are clear. The collaboration between both teams of scientists on product development alongside shared contacts and expertise will bring advantages to all stakeholders. The manufacturing facilities and regulatory know-how offered by the partnership will also have a significant impact on the speed with which products can be brought to market and facilitate the advancement of new platforms.

The FOLIUM Science team of scientists will continue to operate from the dedicated research base in Bristol UK enabling the business to further expand the capabilities of Guided Biotics® across wide range of pathogenic, wastage and spoilage bacteria.

2021 Uncategorized


FOLIUM Science’s Chief Scientific Officer Professor Martin Woodward shares his expertise on the importance of a healthy microbiome for animal health.

There is currently an increasing interest in the microbiology of the gut, why is that?

A little recognized fact is that the gut of any animal, bird or human contains more cells than the number of cells that make up the host animal itself. Furthermore, there are many different types of micro-organisms or bacteria that comprise what is described as the “gut microbiome”.

This array of micro-organisms play very important functions for the body, the most obvious of which is converting food into the nutrients needed  for the growth and maintenance of the host animal. Ever since man began rearing animals for hunting, transport, companionship or food, it was recognised that providing the best available nutrition was good for the health and welfare of the animal. In the modern era much emphasis is placed on the diet of animals, whatever their role in our lives; thus resulting in the multi-billion dollar animal nutrition industry.

Surely diets are relatively simple?

There is a wonderful old adage that says ‘you are what you eat’ which has some semblance of truth about it. It is the host genetics that determine features and physical characteristics, but growth rates and health are totally dependent upon the right nutrients in the feed. It is essential to have the major building blocks (protein and amino acids) and energy sources (carbohydrates and fats) for growth and development but just as important are the trace elements and vitamins. Think about iron for the haemoglobin of red blood cells; without the presence of iron, oxygen uptake and its transport around the body is impossible.

The discovery that limes and lemons given to sailors on meagre rations of dried biscuits and grog prevented scurvy was one of the first examples of the impact of good (or bad) nutrition on health. The  vitamin C provided, in this case by the citrus fruit is vital. The point is, it is essential to get a balanced diet that covers all bodily needs, and this is the role of the nutritionist.

OK, so the nutritionist has a very important role but what about the gut microbiome?

The number of different types of organism in the gut varies from one animal species to another and comprises anywhere from many hundreds to several thousand different species of bacteria, and this excludes the protists and viruses. The bacteria are the components of the gut that can aid nutrition and they can have many different roles  For example, they can

  • provide enzymes to breakdown complex molecules to simpler ones that can be used for energy or building
  • breakdown unwanted substances such as toxins (detoxification)
  •  produce short chain fatty acids especially butyrate that are used by the host gut cells as energy sources and thereby maintain the integrity of the gut, separating the gut contents form the body
  • produce many of the nutrients through their own metabolism that are essential for the host, the best example being the aromatic amino acids that animals cannot synthesize. This is not an exclusive list by any means but demonstrates the importance of healthy gut microbiome.

Ah yes, you mention a healthy microbiome but what happens when there are diseases especially those that can infect humans as well?

You raise a significant point. So far, we have talked about the bacterial component in terms of the positive effects they confer on the  host. The phrase good/friendly/beneficial bacteria is often used to describe them.

However, not all bacteria are beneficial and many have evolved to colonize the gut to cause disease; we describe these as pathogens. Interestingly, a well-established healthy microbiome is very good at suppressing the effects of pathogenic bacteria. This was first identified and described in the late 1960s and early 1970s and called the ‘Nurmi Effect’  after the author of the paper. A healthy gut microbiome can competitively exclude some pathogens very effectively. However, stress or the use of antibiotics  can disturb the composition of the gut microbiome and open the way for infection. The pathogens of real concern in animal farming and production are those that not only cause losses in  productivity but also those that can enter the food chain and cause diseases in humans. The culprits are Salmonella, pathovars of Escherichia coli and Campylobacter amongst many others.

This sounds complex, how does Folium Science hope to prevent these productivity problems?

Of the complex issues raised here, perhaps the simplest to deal with is the infection of an animal by a pathogen. By definition, this is definitely not wanted in the gut of the host and many mechanisms can be employed to reduce or try to eliminate them. Farmers utilize barrier methods preventing access of potential sources of infection to the animals, rigorous cleansing and disinfection, vaccination and the use of probiotics amongst currently available options. None of these methods are  fool-proof because, with the exception of vaccination, these are non-specific untargeted blanket measures. FOLIUM Science’s Guided Biotic technology precisely targets the specific pathogen of interest and only removes that single target leaving the microbiome otherwise unharmed and able to return into balance. 

However, sustaining a healthy gut microbiome still remains one of the best barriers to infection and is the driver behind much of FOLIUM Science’s work,  relating back to the principles of good nutrition and establishing a balanced microbiome. Our vision at FOLIUM Science is to develop systems that support the re-balancing of the microbiome after dysbiosis (unbalanced gut microbiome caused by disease). Here FOLIUM Science aims to develop novel metabolic interventions that, rather than knocking out a pathogen actually enhance the development of the beneficial bacteria.  

There seems to be a lot of potential here and no use of antibiotics?

Yes the potential is huge and very exciting for FOLIUM Science. And yes, you have identified that our Guided Biotic technology can be used in animal production and farming to replace antibiotics. Not only that, the technology is already being developed to remove the genes that are responsible for encoding antibiotic resistance. 


Selective removal
of Salmonella from
broilers using a
novel technology

TRISTAN COGAN, HOLGER KNEUPER, HADDEN GRAHAM and MARTIN WOODWARD present a trial for a new CRISPR-based patented technology introduced into a vector Escherichia coli probiotic designed to selectively remove all Salmonella serovars from the bird gut.

Over the past few decades the meat, egg and milk sectors have faced the need to reduce the routine use of antibiotics in animal production, and the high incidence of food poisoning  associated with animal product consumption. Approximately 130,000 tonnes of antibiotics were used in 2013 worldwide, with 75% of this in animals. Up to 90% of these antibiotics can be excreted into the environment via urine and feces, and approximately 400 resistance markers against 25 antibiotics can be found in chick caecal bacteria. Globally, around 700,000 human deaths per annum are attributed to antibiotic resistance and this is predicted by the FAO to increase to 10 million by 2050. With rising concern about the development of antibiotic resistance in human health, regulators, consumers and retailers have led the drive to reduce the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in animal feeds to zero. Endemic disease is re-emerging, adding costs to animal production systems and driving the need for alternative non-antibiotic interventions.

Food poisoning continues to be a problem across the world, with salmonellosis cases now increasing in many countries. Non-typhoidal
salmonellosis is reported to cause over one million infections, 19,000 hospitalizations and over 400 deaths annually in the US, with some Salmonella serovars in food showing antibiotic resistance. Although salmonellosis incidents are traditionally relatively low in Australia, recent egg-associated outbreaks have brought this back to the attention of the regulators and consumers. It is now possible to cause a targeted bacterium to self-destruct through the use of CRISPR, the biological sequences that make up the bacterial immune system. This technology is extremely precise, such that it can target a specific bacterium or a defined range of bacteria. This means that, unlike many antibiotics, it can be used to remove only the unwanted bacteria in the animal gut microbiome and leave beneficial gut flora unchanged, potentially enhancing the well-being of the animal. One way to induce bacteria in the animal gut to self-destruct is to introduce a suitable plasmid into the target organism(s) through conjugation via a probiotic included in the feed or drinking water. The
current trial looks at the ability of this technology, named Guided Biotics, to reduce Salmonella colonization in challenged broilers.

A non-pathogenic Escherichia coli strain was used as the vector in this trial, and was loaded with a plasmid including a CAS sequence and 3 target sequences specific to all Salmonella serovars. Ross 308 as-hatched birds (165) were obtained on day of hatch and housed under controlled biosecure conditions, with access to water and standard commercial
rations ad libitum.



Birds were dosed continually from day 1 with either:
1) No addition to water (45 birds)
2) Unmodified E. coli vector at 108
cfu/mL drinking water (45 birds)
3) Anti-Salmonella Guided Biotics
at 108 cfu/mL drinking water (45

In parallel, a group of 30 birds was dosed orally with 0.5 ml 105 CFU/ mL Salmonella Enteritidis strain FS26 on day 1. Birds were checked for Salmonella colonization at day 3 by
cloacal swab (ISO 6579-1:2017).
On day 5, three verified Salmonella[1]colonized birds (seeder birds, with 105 CFU/g in swabs) were marked and added to each of the test groups. Fifteen non-seeder birds from each group were euthanazed on day 12 (7 days post-mixing with seeder birds) and caecal contents were counted for Salmonella using both direct and enhanced methods. Caecal samples were serially diluted in PBS before plating onto XLD agar for direct counts, whilst for enhanced  counts the samples were first incubated in Selenite Cystine broth for 18 hrs at 41o C before plating and counting (ISO 6579-1:2017). For the purpose of data transformation, samples
negative in either method were allocated a count of 1 CFU/g, while those negative in direct counts but positive in the enhanced method were allocated 500 CFU/g. Body weights of the remaining birds were monitored at day 42. Counts and weights were log transformed and statistical analysis conducted using GraphPad Prism. Data were assessed for normality of distribution using a D’Agostino and Pearson omnibus normality test and non-normal were analysed using a Kruskall-Wallis test with Dunn’s multiple comparison test post hoc.  Differences were analyzed using Fisher’s exact test.
All birds in the seeder group showed cloacal Salmonella counts of 105 CFU/g by day 3. By day 12 (7 days post introduction of seeder birds to test groups) all birds in the Control and E. coli vector-only groups were positive using the enhanced counts method, exhibiting caecal counts of 500-4,000,000 CFU/g.
Twenty two of these 30 birds were also positive with direct count. However, when the anti-Salmonella Guided Biotics was added to the drinking water, Salmonella was not detected in any birds with the direct method, and only 8 of the 15 birds tested were positive with enhanced counts. The Guided Biotics treatment reduced (p < 0.001) mean Salmonella counts by approximately log-3 (from log 4.12 to log 1.26, equivalent to 14,200 CFU/g to 18 CFU/g) and also improved 42-day liveweight by 15% (p = 0.02; Figure 1). Discussion The challenge method employed in this study is consistent with that often use in Salmonella vaccine tests and may be regarded as severe. All seeder birds were infected when introduced into the test pens, and the Salmonella shed to in-contact birds would be expected to be highly infective. This was confirmed by the universally high caecal counts in all Control birds 7 days after seeded-bird introduction. Conversely, the Guided Biotics, delivered by conjugation in the digestive tract, was able to stop Salmonella colonization in 8 out of 15 (53%) of the test birds. The average Salmonella count in caecal digesta was also reduced by approximately log-3 (thousand[1]fold) and the maximum Salmonella count lowered from 4 million CFU/g in Control birds to 500 CFU/g in Guided Biotics treated. The 15% increase in liveweight of birds fed the Guided Biotics relative to the Control birds further indicates the severity of the Salmonella challenge employed in this trial. The lack of any effect of the E. coli vector on colonization confirms that the Guided Biotics plasmid was essential for Salmonella reduction. This initial trial establishes the capability of Guided Biotics technology to specifically remove unwanted bacteria, in this case a single Salmonella serovar. The tested Guided Biotics is designed to target all known 2,400 Salmonella serovars, and laboratory trials have established efficacy across the main serovars involved in human food poisoning. Ongoing laboratory tests have also indicated that solutions for other unwanted bacteria, such as Clostridium perfringens and Avian Pathogenic E. coli, are feasible.
Furthermore, because the design of the targeting is specific, tests have confirmed that off-target killing of desirable or commensal bacteria can be avoided.
It is clear that this Guided Biotics technology has the potential to make a substantial contribution to the replacement of antibiotics in poultry production, reduce zoonosis incidents
and maintain bird performance in antibiotic-free diets.


FOLIUM Science launches AQUA Consortium

FOLIUM Science has developed a new partnership with renowned experts in aquaculture health plus leading scientists at Harper Adams University (HAU) to extend the application of its Guided Biotics® technology to the aquaculture industry.

Professor Simon Davies, international expert in fish nutrition and editor-in-chief at International Aquafeed will be working in a collaborative partnership with FOLIUM Science to develop products that help to solve the issues caused by bacterial diseases in fish. He will also join FOLIUM Science’s bench of industrial experts; a group of experienced individuals from across the agri-tech industry who advise and support the development of FOLIUM Science’s technology.

Supporting Professor Davies from HAU will be Dr Tharangani Heath, Senior lecturer in Aquaculture health and Senior research scientist Dr Nilantha Jayasuriya. The team will also be collaborating with Dr Alex Wan of the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) at the prestigious Ryan Institute’s Carna Research Station for feeding trials with salmon.

The new AQUA Consortium will be targeting bacterial pathogens that can cause mortality rates of up to 30% in farmed salmon and trout (source: MSS). Initial focus will be on Aeromonas salmonicida with future work to develop multivalent products for multiple fish pathogens.

FOLIUM Science CEO Ed Fuchs says “The launch of our AQUA Consortium is an important step in our strategic development. The UK Aquaculture industry is valued at more than £550m annually and is growing rapidly. However issues with bacterial pathogens are worldwide so we see huge commercial opportunities for the new products that the AQUA Consortium will develop

Although vaccines currently exist to help manage bacterial pathogens in farmed fish, outbreaks still occur, particularly at times of greater vulnerability such as in early life or when fish are transferred from fresh water to sea water. The emergence of new pathogens has resulted in extensive use of anti-biotics driving the emergence of antimicrobial resistance and concerns across the industry and wider health sector. FOLUM Science’s Guided Biotics® technology applied via the feed, can target specific pathogens at time of increased vulnerability whilst vaccination is given time to provide protective immunity.

Professor Davies says “ This is a great opportunity to contribute our expertise in fish nutrition and aquaculture health to a vibrant and commercially focussed biotechnology business. FOLIUM Science’s Guided Biotics® technology has already proved its efficacy in monogastric agriculture so we look forward to demonstrating the opportunities in aquaculture. Given the opportunities that this represents, we welcome engagement and discussions with potential commercial partners

To find out more about how Guided Biotics® technology works, download our Technical Guide here.


The Consequences of Intensification

FOLIUM Science’s third article on the role of bioscience in the food supply chain examines the characteristics of today’s global food systems, the consequential pressure placed on public health, the interventions that have been developed and the opportunities for future technology.

We asked FOLIUM Science’s in-house experts to reflect on the role that bioscience plays in the food supply chain and draw on their own personal experiences to consider how the future might look.

FOLIUM Science Chief Scientific Officer, Professor Martin Woodward describes some of the macro challenges within the global food supply chain.

“The first thing we have to recognise is that over the last 75 years, we have moved from largely local production of food to highly intensified production for a global market. We are moving foodstuffs around the world at an unprecedented rate with much of this being consumed by the wealthier developed economies”

This growth in intensification has consequences. Animals and crops are reared and grown in close proximity which increases the ability of diseases to spread.

“The additional impact of these monoculture systems where everything is identical is that if an infection does occur, it will infect the whole crop, flock or herd. Genetic diversity is reduced which can mean an entire production system can be wiped out if a single infection occurs. This has been seen for example with Xylella infections in fruit crops and Vibrio parahaemolyticus in shrimp production in parts of South America. One of the things we need to think about is the genetic diversity of what we are growing. Classic breeding selection and more recently genetic modification is used to generate crops and animals that show greater natural resistance to infections as well as drought resistance in crops for example”

One of the other known outcomes of expanding monoculture systems is their impact on the natural environment and on the reduction in natural ecosystems. Martin reflects on how zoonosis, the transmission of an animal disease to humans, can occur.

“This reduction in natural habitats has had a big impact on how diseases move from wild animal species to domesticated or farmed species and subsequently into man. SARS, MERS, Ebola and the new Corona virus are all examples of viruses that have found new hosts in new species. So, because of these big changes in natural environments, what was once contained in nature is now being exposed to human populations”

So how can these risks be managed and how can science combat the challenges to the food supply chain that they represent? Martin remains positive that there are systems in place that can work.

“Fortunately, there is a well-developed global infrastructure around food safety intelligence. Good data exists on what illnesses are occurring and where they are located. The next level down from the data are the diagnostics and bioinformatic analyses that help to identify what’s out there and the extent of the risk. These systems have matured considerably in recent years with good levels of international collaboration. For example, data is published internationally on notifiable diseases such as Salmonella, with export restrictions in place for countries with a high incidence of Salmonella in poultry.”

Metadata analyses, epidemiology, risk analysis and bioinformatics are an increasingly essential part of food safety, particularly as food supply chains become more complex.

“It is vital to know where in the supply chain an issue such as infection or contamination may exist and where it may be disseminated across the global market. Traceability is key from point of origin all the way through the distribution system, so that once a problem is detected, it can be safely contained.”

But in order to carry out the diagnostics and analysis, Martin is very clear that effective testing regimes also need to be in place.

“It is important that testing can be carried out in real time so that issues can be detected where they exist, not after the event. This becomes even more important as food production systems intensify as there is a greater likelihood of a problem becoming concentrated through a single pipeline. Diagnostic testing pre-production is also required so that problems in the environment can be detected early.”

This leads on to the importance of epidemiology and the way in which this aspect of bioscience supports a safe food supply chain.

“Once we know where the producers are and can detect and diagnose a problem, it is crucial to know how and where it will spread. This is the science of epidemiology. In many parts of the world, chickens and pigs live in and amongst houses, often in the back yard or as part of a small holding. A major concern is that this is where new zoonoses may emerge with for example avian influenza starting in a back yard. It then becomes important to understand the migratory paths that infected birds will take and how the infection could spread. Again, this is often linked to manmade changes in the natural environment and the reducing diversity of landscapes, forcing disease into farmed animals and on to humans”.

The food supply system understands the challenges of food safety and has worked with solutions and interventions for years. One of the most important interventions, in Martin’s view is simple biosecurity.

“Biosecurity is well established, especially in developed countries. There are many procedures in place to prevent the spread of infection through a monoculture of chickens, for example. Foot dips, limiting the number of people on site, concrete floor curtains around the barn, reducing wild bird and rodent entry, cleansing and disinfection regimes are standard measures. Where poultry is housed outside, it is harder to control infection that may be carried by birds flying in. Managing the spread of infection in crops is also harder as it can be wind borne.”

One of the most obvious direct interventions in the farmed animal and poultry population is vaccination. Typically, in the UK every chicken is now vaccinated with at least seven vaccines. But developing vaccines is extremely costly and rarely 100% effective although Martin points to some important recent developments in vaccine technology.

“The emergence of synthetic biology and techniques that can stitch together the relevant components into a vaccine that gives a protective immune response is a real breakthrough in modern science. However, we will need to bring public opinion with us as historically the concept of synthetic biology has encountered resistance with consumers because it is viewed as unnatural. It may take a pandemic to change people’s opinion but it’s likely that they will be shouting from the rooftops in support of a synthetic vaccine if it provides immunity to Covid-19.”

The other much used intervention is the use of antibiotics in farmed animals. Whilst these are used therapeutically to treat disease, they are still used as growth promoters. Fortunately, in many parts of the world, there are an increasing number of countries where their use is restricted to the treatment of infected animals or birds. Consumers, particularly in the US and the Europe are influencing reduced and prudent use driven by the emergence of resistant superbugs that cannot be treated in human infections.

“The concept of No Antibiotics Ever (NAE) is gaining traction amongst consumers although this is having an impact on producer’s profitability. The whole industry is having to bear a loss in productivity. This is driving a need for alternatives to the antibiotics that have in the past been so effective.”

Farmers and producers are therefore in desperate need of alternative interventions to vaccines and antibiotics that maintain the balance of good health in farmed animals and in crops. Martin shares some thoughts on the options currently available.

“Beyond the need for good biosecurity, it then becomes a matter of what can be sprayed on crops or fed to animals. Prebiotics and probiotics are well established as feed additives and whilst they will help support animal health, they are unable to effectively control disease. Bacteriophages, originally explored as an option many decades ago are of interest but they too drive selection of bacteria resistant to being killed by them. To overcome this, an extremely wide diversity of bacteriophages is needed; this limits their practicality. So there is currently a huge search for alternative approaches or technologies that can be an effective support for animal or plant health and reduce the risk of infection. Our Guided Biotics® platform is designed to address this”

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One of the challenges associated with any new technology designed to tackle infectious disease is how to get it to reach its target. Martin explains why this is important and why this represents an opportunity area for future investment.

“Much of the new biotechnology that is in development across the world is reliant on having an effective targeting and delivery system as part of its application. Many technologies will operate in a small window of opportunity within the target environment so the technology must either be very effective within that window or have a very efficient delivery system. The big opportunity areas for the future are therefore in the biotechnology associated with delivery systems as well as the technology that can selectively remove an unwanted pathogen”.

Martin has given us much to think about. The effects of monoculture food systems and of a worldwide reduction in genetic biodiversity can be seen at a local level in the increased risk of infectious diseases that we are all living with today. However, the global data surveillance and bioinformatic systems that exist will allow for accurate monitoring, risk analysis and modelling such that, in most cases, the appropriate interventions can be put in place.

Beyond biosecurity, interventions include vaccines and antibiotics but the growth in synthetic biology, using pre-existing biological components creates opportunities for new technologies that can be designed to be highly specific and targeted.

To address the systemic challenges of modern agriculture and to continue to produce safe food, the door to new technologies must be opened. Without doubt, bioscience holds the key.


Embracing Innovation in BioScience

In the second of our series of articles, FOLIUM Science considers some of the big challenges in the food supply chain, how attitudes to bioscience and new technologies differ across the world, how funding of new research needs to be managed and where the investment opportunities in bioscience will be.

We asked FOLIUM Science’s in-house experts to reflect on the role that bioscience plays in the food supply chain and draw on their own personal experiences to consider how the future might look.

FOLIUM Science Chief Development Officer, Dr Simon Warner shares some thoughts on how technological change is adopted.

“The last ten years has seen a very different response to new technology depending on where you are in the world.  The US, China and Brazil have embraced new technology much faster than Europe. The focus in Europe has been more orientated towards biological solutions and pesticide reduction, for example, neither of which are bad options but some of the new potent technologies have not fared so well as a result.”

This could be due to inherent beliefs and behaviours that are ingrained within respective societies, as well as the different rates of agricultural and economic growth across the different regions. But it will also be a function of the perceived future and the skills that the next generation will require.

Simon believes that education in the sciences may well be one of the driving factors that impacts the level of adoption of new technologies.

“Developing countries are trying really hard to ensure the next generation benefits from as good a scientific education as possible, whereas in Europe we value other things. The UK in particular is more focussed on finance and other services, and core agriculture in Europe is very small with only a few farmers per head of population. This means that many European consumers have lost touch with agriculture so, although we have seen some great new technologies being developed, their deployment and public acceptance is different around the world”

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are an example of this. First developed in the 1970s and developed through second generation technology in subsequent decades, today’s synthetic biology techniques are taking it through a third evolution with the advent of CRISPR technology.

This type of bioscience has the ability to quicken the pace of agricultural growth. The modern strains of wheat and barley were developed using selective breeding of the desired genetic traits; synthetic biology, such as CRISPR can play an important role in this process.

In previous roles, Simon’s experience has been with viral diseases such as Malaria, Zika and Dengue fever.

“Malaria still kills up to three million people a year, with children disproportionately affected. These diseases are mosquito-based and as yet there has been no vaccine developed that is really effective, so the only current route is to manage the insect population”

Simon believes that lessons can be learnt from the way in which these projects were funded. Much of the work on mosquito borne diseases was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but the Covid-19 pandemic poses a question about whether we will see greater collaboration between scientists or a more siloed, competitive approach.

“Innovate UK has announced a £20m Covid-19-related competition for UK businesses with maximum grants of £50,000 per business. This encourages competition but not collaboration. It is therefore up for debate whether many small laboratories with small amounts of money will deliver a better solution than a bigger collaborative consortium with say a minimum of £1m. Different countries will take different approaches, but it would be good to see the scientific community working together on this challenge”

When it comes to protecting consumers from ongoing food safety risks, it is a matter of making sure that the public do not take food safety for granted and realise that without good science, this will become even more of an issue.

“We could say that banning the use of antibiotics as a growth promoter for livestock production is a sensible policy and to reserve the  use of antibiotics only as veterinary medicines, but the consequences of this could also inadvertently cause contamination in the food supply chain with pathogens and unwanted bacteria such as Salmonella. Therefore by reducing the use of antibiotics to address the issue of antimicrobial resistance, other risks can occur. So we need alternatives that will support animal wellbeing and reduce the risk of infection. Our Guided Biotics® platform is designed to address this”

(Download our technical guide to find out more

Simon is clear that science will play a big part in a sustainable and secure food supply. With an ever-growing world population, there are some big risks and challenges ahead.

“We all forget, as complacent Europeans, that the world will not have enough food by 2030, so there is a big risk staring us in the face. There won’t be enough food or enough animal protein. This is because of productivity gaps and behavioural changes. China is demanding more meat and the consumption of meat in the western world will not be sustainable as crop acreage and water supply become limiting factors. Science has a role to play in supporting increased productivity from the existing agricultural acreage to combat the issues caused by climate change, changes in rainfall patterns and water scarcity”.

Biotechnology has solved issues of food preservation before.  The use of fermented foods and drinks to combat dirty food and water by developing beers and breads is an example of how biotechnology has always played a role in the safety of our food.

So, in the long term what does this all mean for investors and where should they look to support biotechnology in the future? Simon is clear that technology to drive productivity and efficiency will be key.

“In the long term, the problems that face us will be how to increase crop yield in a world where fewer new crop protection products  are being registered . Finding ways to protect plants and crops is therefore becoming more challenging. The opportunities lie in technology that can enhance productivity and efficiency in a world where resources are becoming increasingly stretched. And, in recognition of the differing public attitudes towards new technology, biological solutions can only improve the rate at which it will be adopted”.

To conclude, new biotechnologies for the food supply chain are vital but the rate of adoption will depend in part on how local populations perceive the science. Implementation is more likely in countries that have historically been more receptive to new technology such as the US, Asia and South America or where a science-based decision-making process is regarded as important.

The optimisation of funding models for research and development will play a part in the success of new initiatives, including finding treatments for global pandemics. It remains to be seen whether a competition-driven or collaboration within larger consortia approaches are more effective.

Finally, the opportunities for investment in biotechnology will be in technologies that deliver production efficiencies, higher yields and that can protect public health from unwanted pathogens.