Brightseed closes $68M financing to accelerate A.I. discoveries and launch own ingredients

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Brightseed's first ingredient to market will be sourced from Hemp hull.  Image © AlasdairJames / Getty Images
Brightseed's first ingredient to market will be sourced from Hemp hull. Image © AlasdairJames / Getty Images

Related tags Brightseed AI Artificial intelligence phytonutrients

AI-phytonutrient pioneer Brightseed has announced $68 million in Series B funding to enable the company to accelerate its tech-based discoveries and launch novel ingredients for food, beverage, and supplements.

The funding, which was led by Temasek, with participation from existing and new investors, will enable Brightseed to advance natural compound discovery and clinical validation, and launch the company’s first ingredient from a new ingredient commercialization center in “Research Triangle Park” of Raleigh, North Carolina. The company will submit a GRAS dossier for the ingredient with the US FDA.

The company told NutraIngredients-USA that the Raleigh location, which is already in operation, will host roughly 35 employees focused on scale-up of ingredient production and manufacturing, quality assurance and testing, sales, business development, and medical and regulatory affairs. “Our Raleigh site will also host a satellite discovery lab and clinical validation,”​ it added.

The company’s first discoveries, N-trans caffeoyltyramine (NCT) and N-trans-feruloyltyramine (NFT), are sourced from upcycled hemp hulls. The company anticipates launching the ingredients within nine months for food, beverage, and consumer health industries.

“Consumers are increasingly looking for natural and accessible solutions to restore their health, but industry has been severely limited by a lack of tools and technologies to look more deeply into nature’s potential to do that,”​ said Sofia Elizondo, co-founder and COO.

“Brightseed is building the opportunity space for health innovation rooted in nature and delivering a clear path forward for clinical validation. We are eager to make our bioactives readily accessible for food and health industries as we move from lab to shelf and embrace consumers along the journey of bioactive discovery.” 


Created by Lee Chae, PhD., Brightseed’s co-founder and CTO, the Forager platform systematically identifies natural bioactives and maps their connection to human health benefits at an unprecedented depth and rate.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-USA in 2020, Brightseed CEO Jim Flatt explained that Forager is designed to, “gain a much deeper understanding of the compounds, what’s called the dark matter of nutrition: these 99% of compounds that have yet to be characterized. With that, we’re able to create a much broader library of compounds from which to make discoveries.

“We have a digital model of human health to make predictions, and this is where a lot of the artificial intelligence comes in to be able to make increasingly accurate predictions about the functions and benefits of these small molecules, these phytonutrients,”​ he added.

To date, Forager has mapped more than two million plant compounds—20 times more than what can be found in existing scientific literature—and dozens are in various stages of validation across multiple health territories, including metabolic health, digestive health, cognitive health, sugar management, maternal health, and immunity, according to a press release.

The advances and opportunities presented by Forager have led to notable partnerships with the likes of Danone​, Pharmavite​, Ocean Spray​, and ofi (olam food ingredients)​.

The company’s Science Center in South San Francisco will continue to be the home of Brightseed’s plant library, world-class technology stack, and compound discovery efforts – informed by metabolomics, bioinformatics, natural products chemistry, biomedicine, and translational and clinical research teams.

First ingredient

First up for the new ingredients arm will be the hemp hull-derived NCT and NFT. The first preclinical study, published last year (Cell Death & Disease​, 12​, 603), showed how these plant bioactives triggered a total body reset in mice fed a high-fat diet. When given certain doses of NCT and NFT, scientists observed other significant health benefits in mice, including reduced liver fat, regulated lipid levels, restored organ function, as well as increased insulin levels in human cells, signaling a resetting and restoring of metabolism from poor to healthy. 

A subsequent paper, published in Cell Death & Disease​ (13​, 89), indicated that NCT is a potent activator of HNF4α, a central metabolic regulator that is impaired by elevated levels of fat in the bloodstream resulting from chronic overeating.

The company told us it is “heartened by the outstanding pre-clinical evidence and novel observations NCT and NFT had in mice in three separate clinical studies. The health potential and application of these compounds are vast along the health continuum.

“We have a multi-phased clinical design to thoroughly investigate the potential of NCT and NFT in humans to augment liver health (targeting fatty liver disease), gut health, digestive health and weight management. Human clinical trials are underway, and will be a multi-year process.”​ 

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