The grant is the second from the Gates Foundation, and will allow Brightseed to focus on environmental enteric dysfunction (EED), a poorly understood condition caused in part by micronutrient deficiencies, undernutrition, certain gut infections, and abnormal gut microbiota. While EED is usually asymptomatic, in infants it is associated with nutrient malabsorption, stunting, and wasting, which can have long-term effects on the health and development of affected children.
Brightseed will use its Forager AI platform to screen more than seven million plant compound associations for efficacious and safe solutions that provide benefits for undernourished mothers with EED, said the company in a release.
Promising bioactive compounds will be subsequently validated via preclinical and clinical models. The project will ultimately result in candidate clinically effective nutritional products and potential therapeutics to support gut health in pregnant and lactating mothers in order to improve birth outcomes.
“We’re extremely honored to receive this grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to continue to work toward addressing such a crucial global health crisis,” said Sofia Elizondo, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Brightseed. “Our proprietary technology enables us to develop scalable, nature-based solutions that were never previously possible, and by analyzing plant raw material from the local regions impacted most by undernutrition, our aim is that these sources will be both accessible and affordable.”
Brightseed’s first grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded a proof-of-concept program in which the company discovered natural compounds that mimic aspects of azithromycin in support of maternal gut health.
The results of that 2021 program suggested there is a significant opportunity to use the Forager AI platform to further discover and develop novel, efficacious plant-derived products that address improved gut health in mothers, thereby delivering better maternal and infant health outcomes, said Brightseed. As gut barrier changes are common physiological occurrences in undernourished individuals and are a hallmark of related diseases like EED, this program will specifically seek plant compounds that impact the intestinal barrier.