Plant cell technology company Ayana Bio has pledged US$3 million to accelerate the production of cacao bioactives through cellular cultivation. According to the company, cacao contains biologically active compounds that support healthy digestion, cardiovascular health and immunity. Traditional harvesting methods are expensive, unsustainable and have been linked to supply chain challenges including child labour, climate change and deforestation.
The funding will be used by the company to expedite commercialisation of cacao wellness ingredients and prioritise research to link genetic profiles of different cacao varieties with certain health benefits and usage applications to expand partnerships with CPG companies.
Ayana Bio is producing the cacao using its proprietary plant cell cultivation technology, a means of producing plant materials without growing plants in the ground. The company’s technology grows cacao biomass from optimised cell lines in a stainless-steel cultivation systems similar to the process of beer fermentation.
“While most cacao producers focus on confectionery chocolate, Ayana Bio is uniquely positioned to broaden the health and wellness applications of cacao,” explained Effendi Leonard, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Ayana Bio. “The genetic profiles we unearth will allow us to focus on producing high polyphenol cacao extracts to impart benefits into consumer packaged goods that typically lack nutritional value, and to explore how they can be used beyond polyphenol production across industries, like disease resistance.”
The company cell cultivation technology offers an alternative production method that avoids current cacao harvesting challenges, while sustainably producing cacao bioactives to use as ingredients in food, beverage and health and wellness products. Cacao will be the first of the bioactive products in Ayana Bio’s product pipeline which will includes ingredients in berries, ginseng, echinacea, and ginger. The cacao bioactives aim to be ready for commercialisation by 2024.
“This multi-million dollar pledge will allow us to double down on our efforts to use plant cell cultivation to sustainably scale bioactives and reduce the reliance on harmful agricultural practices,” said Frank Jaksch, CEO of Ayana Bio. “We hope this initiative will inspire CPG companies and other external partners to join our mission to expand access to cacao bioactive products.”
To improve its R&D and commercialisation efforts, Ayana Bio has appointed Dr. Weslee Glenn as its Head of Platform development. Before joining Ayana Bio, Glenn was the Director of Metabolic Engineering at Provivi and earned his PhD and Postdoctoral at MIT and Caltech. In addition to this hiring decision, the company has also hired Troy Rhonemus as its Head of Commercial Operations.
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