Microalgae startup joins research initiative to spearhead IBD innovation

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Yemoja indoor plant
Yemoja indoor plant

Related tags IBS IBD Research Algae

Microalgae cultivation start-up Yemoja, Ltd. is joining the MIGAL Galilee Research institute to spearhead an extensive, four-year research initiative to identify algae-sourced compounds with the potential to help manage inflammation and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

The initiative, titled “Algae4IBD,” will aim to select beneficial algae to be developed into functional foods as well as nutraceutical and pharmaceutical applications.

The project has been awarded a grant of €7.5 million from the EU funding arm, Horizon 2020, which is dedicated to supporting game-changing research and innovation projects.

Israel-based Yemoja is part of a 21-member consortium composed of marine science experts, research institutes, universities, hospitals and IBD centers, and algae cultivation companies. The campaign is being led by Dr. Dorit Avni, a senior researcher for MIGAL.

IBD diseases, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease are chronic relapsing disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. They affect more than 2 million Europeans and 1.5 million Americans, and are characterised by prolonged intestinal inflammation.

“We believe a promising solution for this illness could be hiding within the cell walls of microalgae,”​ says Dr. Amikam Bar Gil, CTO of Yemoja. “There are some preliminary data within the peer-reviewed literature suggesting that microalgae could harbor anti-inflammatory activity within the digestive tract. Although this arm of research is still in early stages, leaving an ocean of knowledge still needing to be uncovered. This consortium was devised to pioneer the first robust and broadscale inquiry into the positive connection between microalgae and IBD."

Under this partnership, Yemoja and other global algae companies will be responsible for cultivating multiple strains of known and novel microalgae to be screened for their potential anti-IBD properties. Several hundred strains will be screened before advancing to clinical trials.

Bar Gil adds: “Algae4IBD is the first far-reaching study to comprehensively assess the potential of an extraordinarily wide spectrum of microalgae for managing IBD. This was not possible before, due to cultivation limitations.

"Microalgae are esteemed for their inherently rich content of healthful fatty acids, protein, antioxidant pigments, and polysaccharides, and presents multifaceted avenues for addressing IBD. It is an exciting project we anticipate will bring good news for chronic sufferers of IBD.”

Yemoja’s high-precision indoor cultivation platform enables the company to manipulate environmental parameters such as light, temperature, and pH to achieve high concentrations of the desired bioactive compounds, and enhance yields without the threat of contamination.

The startup will roll out commercial-scale production of several identified successful microalgae candidates that will be used to develop functional food solutions, such as bread, gummies and bars, as well as natural supplements and pharmaceuticals.

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