The collaboration will focus on identifying and enhancing the currently unknown genetic pathways in microbes that support the production of novel metabolites, using Evogene’s MicroBoost AI tech-engine and Verb Biotics’ access to the genomes of various microbial strains, the companies shared in a statement.
“Partnering with Evogene equips Verb Biotics with a powerful edge to revolutionize microbiome-driven health solutions,” said Noah Zimmerman, chief technology officer at Verb Biotics. “By leveraging Evogene’s technology, we further streamline and de-risk our innovation pathway, prioritizing function-first approaches for optimal microbiome health.”
The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Function first for precision biotics
Verb Biotics, a Boston-based synthetic biology spinout of biotech company Ginkgo Bioworks, launched in 2021 to develop probiotics, postbiotics and synbiotic solutions that deliver specific metabolites with targeted mechanisms of action in areas including digestive health, stress and mood, healthy aging, sports recovery and women’s health.
Instead of the traditional approach of starting with the potential benefits of an isolated bacteria, Verb Biotics first looks at function and investigates the potential mechanisms of action to achieve a desired physiological and psychological need state. It then selects microbes from its growing product library that generate these metabolites at levels that achieve targeted health outcomes.
In June 2023, the start-up announced the acquisition of YSOPIA Bioscience’s strain library including bacterium Christensenella minuta, which has demonstrated a potential role in regulating energy balance and metabolic homeostasis. It plans to launch its first commercial offering for food, beverage and supplement brands in the coming year.
Big data and artificial intelligence
Evogene is also a function-first company and harnesses big data and artificial intelligence using three tech engines: MicroBoost AI for microbes, ChemPass AI for small molecules and GeneRator AI for genetic elements. Its subsidiaries currently use these engines to develop human microbiome-based therapeutics (Biomica), ag-biologicals (Lavie Bio), ag-chemicals (AgPlenus), medical cannabis products (Canonic) and castor varieties for the biofuel and other industries (Casterra).
“This collaboration underscores Evogene’s strategic commitment to leveraging our state-of-the-art AI tech-engines to new areas and opens doors for additional sectors in the life sciences industry to benefit from our powerful technology,” said Eyal Ronen, executive vice president of business development at Evogene. “Together with Verb Biotics, we aim to drive substantial progress in probiotics innovation and to stretch the boundaries of what can be achieved in this field.”
As the company explains, MicroBoost AI not only identifies high-potential product-specific candidates but also pinpoints the biological reasoning (genes) behind its selection, “improving the chances of the initial microbial hit to pass the subsequent optimization and development phases” — ultimately reducing development time and cost.
The collaboration aligns with the expanding importance of global microbiome research and increasing consumer awareness of the major role that gut microbiota composition plays across many aspects of wellness.
According to market research firm Spherical Insights, this interest is feeding a global probiotics market that is slated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.6% to reach nearly $114 billion by 2032, with the fastest growth expected in North America during the forecast period.