ADM (a supplier of nutrition solutions for food, beverage, and health and wellness brands) and Brightseed (a bioactives company and a World Economic Forum Global Innovator) have announced a global joint partnership to develop evidence-based functional synbiotic products that target microbiome optimization with an undisclosed investment. ADM is leveraging Brightseed’s artificial intelligence (AI) platform, Forager, to decipher the molecular interactions between dietary plants and gut microbes and their potential impact on human health.

“We know from our recent research into global consumer trends that macro forces, including the lingering pandemic, have coincided with an increased demand for natural and plant-based solutions that target immune function, metabolic health, and mental well-being,” says Mark Lotsch, ADM’s president of global health and wellness. “We are thrilled to partner with Brightseed to lead in state-of-the-art discovery on the microbiome, and to bring forward science-backed solutions that empower consumers toward proactive and individualized health.”

“Brightseed and ADM share the conviction that precision health outcomes for consumers should be driving category innovation,” says Sofia Elizondo, Brightseed’s co-founder and chief operating officer. “ADM's advanced understanding of the untapped potential of natural compounds, combined with their vast microbial libraries, is the sum total expertise that will redefine the future of ingredients to promote a healthy microbiome.”

The gut microbiome is a dynamic ecosystem of microorganisms that perform complex interactions between our diet and human biology to impact health. Although scientific research over the last 15 years highlights the central role the microbiome plays in human health, details remain to be discovered about the specific functions of the diverse microbial communities and diet-microbiome-host interactions. As a result, there is a surge of interest in nutrition science on the role of synbiotics for precision gut health benefits, a category of gut health solutions in the form of food and supplements which combine probiotics (health-beneficial microbial strains) with prebiotics (non-digestible fibers that help these bacteria grow and plant substrates that microbes convert to health beneficial compounds).

Brightseed’s Forager A.I. discovers bioactives in plants and maps them to specific modes of action at a rate and accuracy that was previously impossible, providing insights into biological changes that can occur at the cellular level. ADM and Brightseed aim to launch highly efficacious synbiotics in specific health areas as functional ingredients for foods and beverages, dietary supplements, and medical foods by 2025.

Bioactives are compounds found in plants, fungi, and microbes that also benefit human health. Many bioactives, such as lycopene in tomatoes or curcumin in turmeric, are inherently found in the plants we eat. However, there are multitudes of other bioactives that are only accessible through complex interactions within the gut. One example is the compound salicin found in willow bark, which transforms into salicylic acid when it interacts with gut microbes. Science has long known that bioactives are critical to human health, yet the vast majority remain unknown and are often referred to as the “dark matter” of nutrition.