Improving Existing Ingredients
Making natural ingredients by fermentation confers a series of important benefits.
Improved product quality
Many natural ingredients contain undesirable elements – for example elements that make the product bitter, that discolor it, or that make it difficult to formulate. By making pure ingredients by fermentation, Evolva can avoid such contaminants, improving product quality. For example with stevia the bitter tasting components that occur in agriculturally produced stevia can be avoided when using fermentation. The increased standardization of products from fermentation can also be an important quality benefit.
Improved supply chain integrity
Many natural ingredients involve long and complex supply chains, involving multiple groups in multiple countries. This not only raises costs, but makes ensuring the integrity of the supply chain challenging. With fermentation the supply chain can be greatly shortened and simplified (being located close to key customers, if desired). This makes it less costly, intrinsically more robust, and far easier to safeguard.
In addition many natural ingredients vary sharply in their annual production, with drought, floods, pests or similar “events” further complicating supply chains and prices. For many specialty crops a shortfall in one year’s harvest cannot be made up until the next year. By contrast fermentation is far more stable, and a shortfall in one batch can be made up the next week.
Nature has not evolved to maximize the efficiency of production. The saffron crocus produces very little saffron per crocus, musk cannot be obtained from the musk deer without killing it, and so on. This inefficiency imposes cost, and this cost in turn often limits the potential uses of many ingredients. Fermentation allows for far more efficient production of such ingredients, reducing the cost (often substantially) and making them affordable to many more individuals all over the world.
Many agricultural production systems are perfectly sustainable. But not all. The inefficiency of nature (see above) can mean that growing the plant, or raising the animal, takes more land, more water or more energy than it really should. Extracting the ingredient from its original source may require solvents or other processes which generate significant waste. In such cases making the ingredient by fermentation can improve a product’s sustainability, freeing land or other resources for other uses.
Improved product “customization”
Many natural ingredients (f.x. saffron, or stevia) are mixtures of different components. These components each contribute their own taste, smell, colour, functionality etc to the mixture. But not all these properties may be desirable in all products, or desired by all consumer demographics – a blue colour may be desirable in a sweet, but not in a meat coating, etc. Fermentation allows ingredients to be broken down to their individual components, and hence allows companies to customize their offer more precisely to the needs and desires of particular customers
Improved solubility and bioavailability Evolva’s glycosylation technologies allow many ingredients to be improved in terms of their solubility and bioavailability. This can improve their efficacy, make them easier to formulate and reduce their cost of production.
Making “Impossible” Ingredients Possible
In some cases the ingredients we make occur in nature, but only in settings that have made their commercialization to date “impossible”. Evolva’s approach can liberate the availability of such ingredients. Two examples include
Natural product drugs, scents and crop protection products. Many interesting compounds are made by plants, marine organisms and other species. However often they are made in such small amounts, or the species is so rate, or difficult to harvest (corals for example) that the compounds remain out of reach. Many of these compounds can be fermented using Evolva technologies, making them accessible to the world.
Endogenous human metabolites. Many fascinating and important molecules that occur naturally in humans. Yet harvesting these molecules from humans (or our relatives) is often ethically unacceptable and/or economically impractical. Production of many of these metabolites by chemical synthesis is often impossible. Such molecules can be made by fermentation in our yeasts
Creating New Active Ingredients
Whilst much of our work focuses on finding new ways to make existing ingredients, we also create new compounds, based on the creation of biosynthetic pathways that do not occur in nature, or that use non-natural building blocks as their starting point. Very often, though not always, this approach is combined with functional selection for ingredients that have particularly desirable properties (break a protein:protein interaction, stop a virus replicating through a cell, etc.)
Such novel active ingredients have their primary utility in the pharmaceutical industry, but are also relevant to crop protection, speciality chemicals and some other sectors
Importantly the compounds that we obtain in this manner have highly attractive structural characteristics, in particular
- A high level of novelty (c. 80% novelty, including c. 20% core scaffold novelty)
- A low molecular weight, averaging around 300 daltons
- Relatively high three-dimensional complexity despite the small size
- Good observance of all drug-likeness rules (lipophilicity, number of rotatable bonds etc).