Brightseed CEO: ‘We’re building an unparalleled database around plant compounds’

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Artificial intelligence phytonutrients bioactives liver health NutraIngredients-USA Awards

With a pipeline of novel phytonutrients targeting endpoints such as liver health, cognitive function, and blood sugar management and key partnerships with the likes of Danone and Pharmavite, it’s easy to understand why Brightseed is our Start-up of the Year.

The San Francisco-based company, which was recently crowned Start-up of the Year at the NutraIngredients-USA Awards, has experienced a meteoric rise, powered by its Forager platform that maps millions of bioactive natural compounds from plants and connects these with human health benefits.

The company made headlines several times in 2020 with partnerships with Danone​ and Pharmavite​, and recently published details of its first discovery in Cell Death & Disease​, a Nature​ publication, on novel phytochemicals called N-trans caffeoyltyramine (NTC) and N-trans-feruloyltyramine (NTF) linked to liver health.

According to the research, both NTC and NTF can act as potent activators of HNF4a, a central metabolic regulator that is impaired by elevated levels of fat in the bloodstream resulting from chronic overeating. a novel biological mechanism governing the accumulation and clearance of liver fat.

Jim Flatt, co-founder and CEO of Brightseed, told NutraIngredients-USA that beyond this first bioactive for metabolic health, the company has filed or is filing intellectual property that represent new solutions for blood sugar management as well as cognitive function.

“What we envision is that we can turn this into a pipeline of completely novel and important health-beneficial ingredients that can be launched at an unprecedented rate because of the speed and power of Forager,”​ said Dr Flatt.

“We’re building an unparalleled database around plant compounds, and we expect to have over a million compounds annotated before the end of the year, which would represent about 10 times what the world knows. And that’s just a rich opportunity for new bioactive discovery but also, we’re helping companies and our partners like Danone understand much more deeply the products they have and how to build new health-forward stories.”

But what are the next steps with NTC and NTF? “Our goal here ultimately is, with positive clinical data, to get this to market so that eventually this could become a daily habit much in the way people may take vitamins D and calcium for bone health, you take these bioactive compounds from health to promote good metabolic health and become more resilient,”​ explained Dr Flatt.

The company will be bringing these compounds to market by themselves, he said, but, “I do envision though, that once we’ve proven the market acceptance that we will be looking for a partner to help scale the production, sales, and distribution.”

“Nothing about a start-up goes according to plan…”

NutraIngredients-USA asked Dr Flatt if the company is ahead of schedule in terms of building the business and delivering results, or is this all according to plan

“Nothing about a start-up goes according to plan but we’re definitely ahead of schedule,”​ said Dr Flatt. “I think there’s three reasons: The first is the wonderful work that our technical team, led by my co-founder Lee Chae, has done. We’re tackling an incredibly challenging topic, which includes profiling 99% of the compounds that have yet to be characterized… and understanding not only what those compounds are but how they function is a really challenging undertaking. In just several years we have a fully functional platform that has shown a lot of case study for its ability to identify novel bioactive compounds, and correctly annotate them for health.

“Second reason is the consumer, which the industry is responding to. Certainly, pre-COVID, you could see growing interest in health and wellness, proactive health, but with COVID those interests have accelerated.

“Consumers are looking for products that are proven to work, that are natural, and that can be produced sustainably, and that’s what Brightseed’s Forager platform offers the industry as a key partner to innovation.”

The third reason, said Dr Flatt, is that a lot of companies are challenging themselves to think differently to improve R&D productivity and accelerate innovation.

Click on the video above to watch the full interview.

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