San Diego-based Seraphina Therapeutics is led by Dr. Stephanie Venn-Watson, and their first product, fatty15, is built around pentadecanoic acid (C15:0), an odd-chain saturated fatty acid. Fatty15 was soft launched in October as a direct-to-consumer dietary supplement, with the official launch in January 2021. Early in 2021, the company is planning to launch fa15 as an ingredient for food, Dr. Venn-Watson told NutraIngredients-USA.
“It’s not your average origin story,” said Dr. Venn-Watson. “To provide a little context, I was working as a veterinary epidemiologist at CDC and World Health Organization, and then about 20 years ago the Navy asked me to start and lead a clinical research program to continually improve the health and welfare of the Navy’s dolphins in San Diego.
“The Navy has a dolphin population, and they have sustained this population of about 100 bottlenose dolphins in San Diego Bay over the past 60 years. The dolphins get amazingly good care, and today Navy dolphins live more than 50% longer than dolphins in the wild. And the Navy has found itself with a population of geriatric dolphins.
“With these geriatric dolphins we were surprised to see that, just like people, some dolphins developed age-associated conditions like high cholesterol, chronic inflammation, and even chronic liver disease (NAFLD).
“So, we were able to leverage this invaluable, longitudinal cohort, and go back to the archive serum samples and apply metabolomics, and we were able to identify 200 [small molecules] that independently predicted dolphins that didn’t develop various aspects of these different diseases. So, with that, our lead compound was C15 pentadecanoic acid, an odd-chain saturated fat. We [humans] get it primarily from dairy fat and butter, but it turned out that he dolphins were getting it from some types of fish. Some fish have C15 and some don’t.
“When we took dolphins who had these chronic conditions and had low C15 levels and gave them fish with more C15, we saw their blood levels of C15 go up and we saw, excitedly, that the dolphins had lower insulin, lower glucose and cholesterol.”
Following these results, Dr. Venn-Watson took pentadecanoic acid into the lab for three years of study to demonstrate and confirm that C15 is an active dietary fat that provides significant benefits.
The results of this work were published earlier this year in Nature’s Scientific Reports*.
The saturated fat question
“We’ve decided to take this head on, starting with calling our first product fatty. The words fat and fatty have these negative connotations in society,” said Dr. Venn-Watson. “We’ve undergone this 40-year experiment where fats have been vilified, and typically saturated fats. There is a need to say not only do we know that there are good fats and bad fats, but we now understand that there are also good saturated fats and bad saturated fats. By removing all saturated fats from our diet, we’ve created these C15 deficiencies. So, education, education, education is really our goal.”
Seraphina Therapeutics raised $6.2 million in Series A from Domain Associates earlier this year, and will be looking to raise more via Series B in the middle of 2021, said Dr. Venn-Watson.
* Scientific Reports
2020, 10, Article Number: 8161, doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-64960-y
“Efficacy of dietary odd-chain saturated fatty acid pentadecanoic acid parallels broad associated health benefits in humans: could it be essential?”
Authors: S. Venn-Watson, et al.