AYANA BIO PLEDGES $3M INVESTMENT INTO DEVELOPING HEALTHY INGREDIENTS DERIVED FROM CHOCOLATE
Ayana Bio, a plant cell technology company making sustainable bioactives for consumer products, has pledged $3 million (€2.75m) to accelerate the production of cacao compounds through cellular cultivation.
Cacao contains biologically active compounds that support healthy digestion, cardiovascular health, cognition and immunity while reducing risk of inflammation and diabetes. However, traditional harvesting methods can be expensive, unsustainable and have been linked to numerous supply chain challenges, including child labour, farmer poverty, pests, climate change and deforestation, Ayana Bio said.
The company said it will use this funding to expedite the commercialisation of cacao wellness ingredients and prioritise research to link the genetic profiles of different cacao varieties with certain health benefits and usage applications to expand partnerships with CPG companies.
It will be producing the cacao using its proprietary plant cell cultivation technology, a means to produce plant materials without growing plants in the ground.
Instead, Ayana Bio’s technology grows cacao biomass from optimized cell lines in a stainless-steel cultivation system akin to beer fermentation, yielding the identical molecular mixtures found in nature—or even higher concentrations of beneficial bioactives.
Effendi Leonard, Ayana Bio co-founder and chief technology officer, said: “While most cacao producers focus on confectionery chocolate, Ayana Bio is uniquely positioned to broaden the health and wellness applications of cacao. 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.”
According to Ayana Bio, its plant cell cultivation technology offers an alternative production method that avoids current cacao harvesting challenges, while sustainably and inexpensively producing cacao bioactives to use as ingredients in food, beverage and health and wellness products.
These bioactives will be increasingly important as research shows a daily recommendation of flavan-3-ols, found in cacao, can reduce risk associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes, the company claims.
Cacao will be among the first of many bioactive products in Ayana Bio’s pipeline, which includes ingredients in berries, ginseng, echinacea, ginger and other high-value botanicals. Ayana Bio’s cacao bioactives plan to be ready for commercialization by late 2024.
Frank Jaksch, chief executive officer of Ayana Bio, added: “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. We hope this initiative will inspire CPG companies and other external partners to join our mission to expand access to cacao bioactive products.”
To deepen 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, respectively. Ayana Bio has also hired Troy Rhonemus as its head of commercial operations. Previously Troy held various positions at Pendulum Therapeutics, Bolt Threads, ChromaDex, and Cargill. In 2022, Ayana Bio also appointed ChromaDex founder and longtime CEO Frank Jaksch as its first chief executive officer.
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