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Vaccine start-up wins Nutreco feed tech challenge

International jury praises finalist for high potential 'game-changing innovation.'

Start-up company MicroSynbiotiX won the final of the Nutreco Feed Tech Challenge Event.

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The event took place on Feb. 22-23 in Boxmeer, The Netherlands, and consisted of several challenge rounds during which 10 contestants competed.

According to the jury report, the innovation of MicroSynbiotiX had the best fit with the challenge profile: a real game changer with high potential, operating in an area where few other companies are active.

MicroSynbiotiX is developing a cost-effective delivery platform for oral vaccines to combat diseases and infections in aquaculture, by developing a novel method of locking the vaccine in genetically modified microalgae.

The Nutreco Feed Tech Challenge was centered around the question ‘What is your breakthrough innovation -- that CANNOT wait?’ More than 40 ideas were submitted and 10 finalists were selected to the challenge event.

The event offered a dynamic greenhouse and pressure cooker environment with workshops and intensive interaction with the jury and fellow start-ups. The objective was to further nurture and enrich these high potential concepts. In addition, the finalists were trained in IP, business modelling and storytelling.

High level of competition

“We were very impressed by the very high level of the competition and it is fair to say that for all 10 finalists it was a performance in itself to have been selected to participate in this two-day event,” said Daniel Berckmans, jury chair and professor of the University of Leuven.

“What made MicroSynbiotiX stand out was that they have developed a high risk, high potential innovation. Oral vaccination can be a real game changer in managing disease outbreaks in aquaculture, contributing to a significant reduction in the use of antibiotics and a decrease of production losses.

"These are the innovations that can make a difference in feeding a growing world population in a sustainable way," he said.

KnipBio, who developed a series of microbes that will convert low-cost aquaculture feedstock, and EKO GEA, who developed a method of freeing up all available target compounds in Ascophyllum nodosum marine algae, turning it into a versatile prebiotic tool, ended up as the two runner-ups.

Game changer

Disease outbreaks in aquaculture result in losses worth more than $10 billion (€10.6 billion) each year, which accounts for more than 5 percent of global production.

Currently, vaccination is done manually. This is not only cumbersome and costly, but also impractical, as it requires the fish or shrimp to be of a certain size and maturity. MicroSynbiotiX offers a new and more efficient oral vaccination method.

Antonio Lamb, chief operating officer and cofounder of MicroSynbiotiX, said; “We are really thrilled to have won. The on-farm validation trial is a unique opportunity to accelerate our innovation, a real ‘money-cannot-buy’ opportunity.

"And the interaction and collaboration with Nutreco specialists, the jury members and the other start-ups was a reward in itself. That’s what makes this challenge stand out from other challenges and contests we participated in.”

Linking two worlds

“Although we could select only one winner, there are several other promising start-ups that we are really looking forward to establish a relationship with for future collaboration,” said Viggo Halseth, chief innovation officer at Nutreco, and one of the jury members.

"The beauty of the Nutreco Feed Tech Challenge is that it builds a bridge between the world of a large corporation like Nutreco, with our global network and market knowledge, and the world of young, creative thinkers that have a completely new look on the challenges of today. Linking these two is a very promising recipe for success.”

Winner and runner-ups Nutreco Feed Tech Challenge 2016/2017

  • MicroSynbiotiX (Ireland) has developed oral vaccines to combat diseases and infections in aquaculture using a novel method using genetically modified microalgae as the delivery vehicle.
  • KnipBio (USA) has have developed a series of microbes that will convert low-cost feedstock into premium, nutritious, single-cell proteins laden with pigment-enhancing carotenoids to produce healthier, more vibrant fish.
  • EKO GEA (Slovenia) has developed a method of freeing up all available target compounds in Ascophyllum nodosum marine algae, turning it into a versatile prebiotic tool.

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