Gates Foundation funds Brightseed to discover plant-based bioactives to improve birth outcomes

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image courtesy of Brightseed
Image courtesy of Brightseed

Related tags: undernutrition, infant health, maternal nutrition, Artificial intelligence, phytonutrients, bioactives, Bill & melinda gates foundation

Brightseed has received an initial $200k grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to aim its A.I. Forager platform towards discovering plant bioactives to improve maternal health and birth outcomes.

Forager’s goal is to illuminate the molecular underpinnings of the bioactives contained in the existing balanced energy protein (BEP) supplement products so the nutritional community can have a better understanding of all compounds that may contribute to better maternal and child outcomes, said the company.

Forager maps the world’s plant bioactives – the 99% of compounds that have yet to be characterized, and what Brightseed refers to as “the dark matter of nutrition” - and understands which of them have the greatest impact using a digital model of human health. Discoveries undergo clinical evaluation, regulatory review, and commercial development to deliver powerful, natural solutions.

The deeper insights yielded by Forager in this project would then allow for formula optimization of the BEP products, and their efficacy for maternal and infant health to be maximized.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation & undernutrition

Undernutrition is one of the greatest global health challenges and is responsible for approximately 45% of deaths among children under five, according to the World Health Organization. As part of a global public health intervention to reduce undernutrition, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports the development of BEP food supplements as it is currently recommended by WHO to pregnant women in countries with high undernutrition burden. 

“Although clinical studies confirm that the nutritional products improve birth outcomes, the biological basis for this impact is not well understood,” ​Adam Cohen, Senior Manager of Business Development at Brightseed, told NutraIngredients-USA. “By the end of this program Forager will deliver us both expanded solutions for malnutrition as well as solutions to reduce the impact antibiotics can have on the delicate digestive system and microbiome of newborns.

“This project will accelerate the novel bioactive discovery in plants for global health, and the myriad of benefits it can have for enabling scalable solutions and future health policy.”

Cohen added that Forager is engaged in a three-pronged discovery approach with the foundation’s maternal newborn and child health group:

“First, with the use of Forager’s elucidation capabilities we’re able to see deeply into the bioactive makeup of nutritional products. This will allow us to identify which ingredients and what bioactive compounds within the products are the most beneficial to human health (which can be used to optimize the products for maximum health benefits).

“Second, we have tapped into Forager’s knowledge of the plant kingdom to look for additional sources that can improve the nutritional products. With this knowledge we can augment the nutritional products’ and maximize their health benefits for mothers and infants.

“Third, with the world’s largest natural compounds database, we are asking Forager to identify potent molecules that can mimic the benefits of a commonly used antibiotic. These work streams are happening in parallel, and within a few months Forager will be able to isolate specific bioactives that are highly promising for maternal and infant health.”​ 

Results of this project are expected in the first half of 2022.

Brigthseed, which was named Start-Up of the Year at the 2021 NutraIngredients-USA Awards​, was founded in 2017 by Sofia Elizondo, Lee Chae, and Jim Flatt.

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