24 June 2021 - North Carolina-based agricultural biotechnology firm BioResource International (BRI) has spent the past several years strengthening its core feed enzymes business and expanding from this base to develop and commercialise novel products based on its platform of science-based innovation.
Founded in 1999 by the father and son team of Dr. Jason and Dr. Giles Shih, BRI today positions itself as a leading developer and supplier of feed additives that help poultry, swine and aqua producers optimise performance and gut health while maximising profits in a sustainable manner. BRI has developed a global focus and its solutions are used in over 80 countries, including use by large integrators.
Celebrating its 22nd anniversary this year, BRI isn’t about to rest on its laurels and says it continues to research science-based solutions. BRI’s President and CEO, Dr. Giles Shih, was happy to fill us in on the latest developments.
[Feedinfo] Dr. Shih, BRI has over the years remained independent and focused on its mission to provide science-driven solutions for animal health and nutrition. Is this independence a prerequisite for innovation and agility?
[Giles Shih] While independence is not necessarily a prerequisite for innovation, staying independent and science-driven allows us to remain agile and responsive to changing market needs. For example, during the past 18 months in a global pandemic, we were able to respond to our customers and distributors requests without having to cut through multiple layers of red tape and make decisions within days or hours, instead of weeks or months. This agility allows us to iterate and innovate quickly and effectively. As for partnerships, we take pride in our ability to develop and maintain strategic partnerships within the industry. We have partnered with research institutions, large feed additive and nutrition distributors, and other organisations globally to meet customer needs. Our vision is to develop innovative, science-driven solutions that improve animal health and nutrition. We are happy to work with partners who share that vision and have a willingness to collaborate. Partnerships ensure that we are always on the forefront of bringing biotechnology innovation to our industry.
[Feedinfo] BRI is open about its research institute and business partnerships which have helped you innovate, scale-up and expand globally. What are the last significant developments that have occurred within these partnerships, and what can be next expected?
[Giles Shih] In 2019 we signed a license agreement to use the cutting-edge gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 for advancing the development of our feed additives in animal agriculture. This tool allows us to quickly and efficiently improve specific enzyme properties at the genetic level, thereby accelerating the development of the next generation of microbially expressed feed enzymes.
Dr. Giles Shih
On the commercial side, our partnerships have allowed us to develop and launch our products in countries across Latin America, the Middle East and South Asia. We also have some technologies that are in the registration process and in 12-18 months you will start to see the first of these products hitting the market at a large-scale. We are excited to see the huge impact that these products will have for customers in terms of health and productivity. All this would not be possible without our partnerships with research and business institutions worldwide.
[Feedinfo] A lot has been said about the potential of CRISPR-Cas9 but it remains challenging to harness the technology and develop bacterial strains. Can you discuss how BRI uses CRISPR-Cas9 and what’s in the pipeline?
[Giles Shih] CRISPR-Cas9 allows BRI scientists to develop new enzyme variants at a faster rate. While still in a nascent stage of development for commercial applications in the animal health and nutrition space. BRI is using CRISPR-Cas9 as a useful genetic tool to create enzymes with more intrinsic heat-stability, which is needed to meet the challenges of higher pelleting temperatures associated with feed-manufacturing hygiene standards. This is just one of the ways that we are using the technology to improve our products, not only making our current products better, but also expanding our enzyme product offerings.
[Feedinfo] BRI is mainly known for its feed enzyme range, but in recent years has introduced a “zymbiotic” approach by providing enzyme and probiotic combinations. Can you expand on the growing interest in this type of approach? How does BRI’s differ from other companies’ approaches to blend these kinds of products together?
[Giles Shih] In the past five years or so, there has been a renewed focus on the gut microbiome of animals. I am continually impressed by the advances the scientific community has made in understanding the connections between animal health and nutrition, and how that is mediated by the gut microbiome. With our knowledge about how enzymes impact certain gut health indicators (i.e., microbiota, viscosity, gut morphology, and the like), we took a deep dive to explore other additives that would work synergistically with enzymes to improve gut health, hence the concept of a Zymbiotic was borne. By combining the benefits of enzymes, and the resulting prebiotic effect, along with a specifically curated blend of natural probiotics, we arrived at a patent-pending formulation that demonstrates a stronger than expected ability to reduce disease challenges, increase immune response, and, most importantly, a significant increase in productivity.
[Feedinfo] BRI’s products allow nutritionists to reformulate diets to contain 4-6% less grain, thereby contribute to lowering carbon footprint. How were you able to come up with this result? And more broadly, can you discuss the importance of fine-tuning enzyme performance evaluation methods?
[Giles Shih] BRI was founded on harnessing nature to develop more sustainable, natural technologies to improve productivity in animal agriculture and sustainability remains at the core of our business. BRI’s xylanase, for example, has been specifically developed to be most active in the segment of the gut where nutrients are normally absorbed, reaching peak activity at the right pH and temperature that allows it to release more nutrients than traditional supplemental xylanases would. We have seen up to 50% more energy released in customer field trials.
When evaluating enzymes for use in a production system there are so many factors to consider. First, what is the goal? Is it reducing feed cost or increasing performance? While both are important, the nutritionist needs to look at market conditions and the combination of grains/cereals they are using. If there are more alternative ingredients included in the diet, then you will need a different enzyme inclusion rate. Reformulating diets correctly is paramount to success. You must find the right enzyme that will work on all types of grains. That is when enzymes really shine in helping reduce feed cost.
[Feedinfo] Finally, Flemming Mahs joined BRI’s executive leadership team in the role of Chief Commercial Officer, with a focus on portfolio commercialisation. Why is this appointment significant?
[Giles Shih] Flemming was appointed in January 2021 as BRI’s Chief Commercial Officer and brings a customer-focused perspective in our industry that dovetails well with our innovation focus. At the end of the day, our success rests on our ability to meet the animal nutrition and health challenges faced by our customers. Since joining our team, Flemming has been actively building out BRI’s sales and marketing team so that we can continue to respond to and meet customers’ needs in everything we do. In addition, Flemming will be working with the technical team to makes sure BRI’s innovations are communicated clearly and widely to the industry.
Published in association with BioResource International (BRI)