Canomiks gets $1 million NSF grant to develop genomics and AI platform for botanicals

By Claudia Adrien

- Last updated on GMT

Current botanical tests typically screen for contaminants and adulterants but not for the presence of bioactives. @ SeventyFour / Getty Images
Current botanical tests typically screen for contaminants and adulterants but not for the presence of bioactives. @ SeventyFour / Getty Images

Related tags Artificial intelligence genomics

The start-up focused on making ‘food as medicine’ has received nearly $1 million from the National Science Foundation to develop a technology that will test ingredients on a batch-to-batch basis using AI and genomics.

Dubbed Cantrust, the platform will establish benchmarks by measuring the biological effect of botanical ingredients and how they influence human health. Canomiks plans to launch the platform in Q1 2025 and will offer the service to companies in the natural products industry, including dietary supplement, functional food, beverage and skincare. It will target suppliers as well as finished good product companies.

“Batches change from harvest time and from regions, from plant strains and whatnot,” said Dr. Leena Pradhan-Nabzdyk,​ PhD, MBA, Canomiks CEO and co-founder. “Just because there is a bioactive present doesn’t mean that the bioactive is actually active. We have seen a lot of variations and sometimes it's not because of fraud. It's just because of the environmental conditions that these products change.”

Current botanical tests typically screen for the presence and quantities of bioactives, contaminants and adulterants but not for their activity or biological effect. Presence of bioactives does not always ensure their biological effect or activity. 

Additionally, clinical trials may have once said an ingredient was effective, but if the supply changes, then a study’s claims may not be as valid, Pradhan-Nabzdyk said.

“Instead of an April harvest, you're getting a May harvest or a June harvest, and [the batch] is very different,” she added.

Initial testing

The company will initially test ingredients such as turmeric, cranberry and elderberry and then follow with other botanicals. 

The company will use turmeric for its beta testing. As a hypothetical, Pradhan-Nabzdyk said analyzing a turmeric batch from Peru might show it is environmentally more sustainable than a batch grown in another part of the world. In such a scenario, Canomiks’ analysis could shift where companies source the ingredient, she said.

As for cranberry, the company will continue its partnership with Ocean Spray​ to research and validate the biological efficacy of the berry.

When it comes to elderberry, it will be tested because of fraud and supply chain concerns. As with other botanicals, Canomiks will uncover data such as how elderberry is grown, the strain and the environmental conditions the batch was grown in, Pradham-Nabzdyk noted.

“We are going to map it out from the beginning of the journey to the end of the journey,” she said of these batches.

'Mapping it out' means feeding AI the data it needs to pick up on patterns. Although Pradhan-Nabzdyk could not disclose some of the company’s proprietary methods,  she explained that Canomiks’ researchers might manipulate a turmeric batch, add some contaminants to it to make it less pure, then create the company’s own data points at the back end. They would then see what human cells and genes are being impacted.

“We’re trying to make those connections to make food as medicine a reality,” she said. “That's like the broader picture. In the short term, in the next five years, we want to be the company that you would come to to get our seal of approval, being like, ‘hey, we got our ingredients tested by Canomiks.’”

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