Evolve BioSystems gets $55 million investment led by Cargill

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Evolve BioSystems claims its infant probiotic can set babies up for a healthier future. ©Getty Images - Nattakorn Maneerat
Evolve BioSystems claims its infant probiotic can set babies up for a healthier future. ©Getty Images - Nattakorn Maneerat

Related tags Probiotics

Evolve BioSystems has announced $55 million in funding from Cargill and a private equity firm to bring its infant probiotic to market scale.

Evolve Biosystems is an independent microbiome research company that was launched out of University of California, Davis in 2014. It was initially funded  by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Also participating in the funding announced this week was investment firm Manna Tree.

Evolve BioSystems has concentrated on infant gut health and the importance of the Bifidobacterium infantis​ species of gut microbe.  Research has shown that this species predominates in the guts of babies that are breastfed. The bacterium preferentially feeds upon the otherwise undigestible human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) found in breast milk.

Setting infants up for health future

The company has developed a specific strain— Bifidobacterium infantis EVC001​—branded as Evivo.   But it takes its gut health message a step further than do many probiotic product developers, who often claim to be ‘supporting’ gut health.  Rather, in speaking with NutraIngredients-USA​ late last year​, Evolve BioSystems direct of scientific communications Tracy Shafizadeh said her company is convinced that making sure infants’ guts are properly populated from the beginning sets children up for a healthier future overall.

“What is now becoming apparent is that early intervention of the infant gut really does dictate the trajectory that a baby will be on as they grow and develop into adulthood.

"Certain health outcomes are associated with the early colonization of the infant gut microbiome and what seems to be the case is that when pathogenic bacteria, or what we would consider bad bacteria, are present in high numbers early in an infant's life, it's associated with things like colic, eczema, diaper rash, even food allergies, obesity and finally type 1 diabetes later in life,”​ she said.

Gut dysbiosis common among American infants

Among the research that supports those assertions is a study the company published recently in the journal Scientific Reports​.  The company’s researchers analyzed 227 stool samples from infants in California, Georgia, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina.  The results showed that B. infantis​ strains were found in lower than expected numbers, and also found high levels of bacteria associated with enteric inflammation (e.g., Escherichia​, Klebsiella).​ 

“[O]ur findings reveal that infants in the US have microbiomes that may fail to provide functions necessary in early life including shaping the immune system, protecting against pathogen colonization, and maximizing nutrition from breastmilk (e.g., HMOs). These diminished ecosystem services suggest that these communities could thus be classified as dysbiotic,”​ the study concluded.

The promise of the technology is what motivated the current investment, said Chuck Warta, president of Cargill’s health technologies business.

“Evolve BioSystem’s Evivo has the potential to be a highly distinctive probiotic for infants and we are delighted to work with them to scale its impact,”​ he said.

“Our research found that more than 90% of infants in the US are missing the critical bacteria, Bifidobacterium longum subsp. infantis (B. infantis), which is widely documented as a key component of the infant gut microbiome. The financial support announced today, which includes strong continued support from our earlier investors, will help continue our vision to make a healthier world for our children during infancy and beyond,” ​said Timothy Brown, CEO of Evolve BioSystems.

The company said through support from the Gates Foundation the Evivo product is being used in a clinical trial at the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research in Bangladesh to assess its impact on infants who have been diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition.

Source: Scientific Reports

 11​, Article number: 1472 (2021)
Metagenomic insights of the infant microbiome community structure and function across multiple sites in the United States
Authors: Casaburi G, et al

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