BioFoodTech start-up EXOSOMM, Ltd., has explored the natural mechanisms inherent in human breastmilk to create a novel bioactive ingredient that can potentially support millions of adults with inflammatory disorders. Based on its scientific findings, EXOSOMM developed an innovative technology that isolates exosomes—natural particles in maternal milk that play an important role in the healthy development of the immune system.
EXOSOMM upcycles byproducts of the traditional cheese making process to create this potent functional ingredient. While still a young start-up, it has already reached commercial production capacity of its patent-protected exosomes for the medical food space.
Maternal milk is recognized as the key vital resource for infants to provide them with the essential elementary nutrients needed to promote optimal growth and wellbeing. It has been linked to protection against various diseases, such as infections, inflammation, and obesity, and plays a crucial role in developing the immune system. Scientific inquiry attributes these benefits predominantly to the presence of exosomes.
Uncovering the power of exosomes
Exosomes are small nanoparticles produced by the body’s cells that naturally accumulate at high concentrations in mother’s milk. They contain beneficial microRNAs: small, single-stranded, non-coding RNA molecules shown in studies to have a significant impact on early child development and also on the infant’s future health. The Exosomm research team were astonished to find that different mammals (human, cow, or sheep) share similar exosome composition, indicating the evolutionary importance of exosomes in offspring.
Professor Shimon Reif, MD, head of the Department of Paediatrics at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem and an opinion leader in the field of pediatric gastroenterology is the pioneering force in the study of milk-exosomes. Following years of dedicated research, his team published findings, revealing the potential role of exosomes in reducing the burden of immune-related disorders, such as Inflammatory Bowel diseases (IBD- like Crohn’s and Colitis), diabetes, and metabolic disorders in adults. This research spurred the establishment of EXOSOMM.
“Exosomm’s technology is based on cutting-edge scientific discoveries and is inspired by the virtues of mother’s milk and its unique health properties,” enthuses Reif. “We believe adults, can benefit from exosomes as a valuable nutrient to help better manage chronic metabolic inflammatory disorders and to boost overall well-being. Further clinical research is in the pipeline, and we currently are focusing our studies on the role of exosomes in managing IBD conditions, such as Crohn’s and Colitis.”
A new powerful role for cheese side streams
Developed in the Israeli Hadassah University Medical center, the technology consists of naturally isolated exosomes from upcycled byproducts of the traditional cheese making process to use as a bioactive ingredient. This step was accomplished by Regina Golan-Gerstl, Ph.D, EXOSOMM’s co-founder and CTO, and senior lecturer and director of the Paediatrics Laboratory at the Hadassah Medical Center. Golan-Gerstl developed a highly effective, safe, and economical method for isolating the bovine milk exosomes.
“One of the challenges was to transform the developed technology into a commercially viable process,” explains Netta Granot, co-founder and CEO of EXOSOMM. “It was essential to find a facility that can collect the whey left over from cheesemaking and process it in a way that ensures the isolated exosomes maintain their unique set of bioavailable properties. We employ a wholly natural process, without chemicals, while adhering to all the required regulations for food safety and quality. Moreover, it was important for us to derive the milk benefits without exerting any burden on milk production. That’s why we run a circular system that depends solely on the whey side stream of the cheese industry.”
The start-up collaborated with Ba’emek Tech, subsidiary of Tnuva Food Industries, Ltd., Israel’s leading food group and producer of fresh dairy products. Ba’emek specializes in the production of whey products and provides the raw material as well as the full commercial technological infrastructure necessary for EXOXOMM’s progress and scale-up goals.
The start-up’s key targets are medical food brands and food formulas intended for special dietary needs. The exosomes can also be integrated as a functional ingredient in numerous food and beverage applications.
Exosomes for IBD and beyond
A series of preclinical studies including in human 3D organoid models conducted by the EXOSOMM team has demonstrated the ability of exosomes to reduce IBD inflammation scores, suggesting the opportunity to boost resilience and enhance the nutritional status of the 10 million IBD patients, and with no adverse effects. They also were shown to boost glucose tolerance and prevent pancreatic and liver damage. Reif hopes that this exosome breakthrough will bring natural relief and improve the quality of life for millions of IBD sufferers globally, and of millions more with diabetes and other metabolic disorders.
The start-up has so far accrued USD1M pre-seed investment from Ofek- Galil incubator supported by the Israeli Innovation Authority.
Exosomm has been selected as a finalist in the Most Innovative Nutraceutical Ingredient category at the upcoming Vitafoods Startup Innovation Challenge 2023. The international conference and expo is scheduled to take place in Geneva on May 9-11, 2023.
EXOSOMM is a BiofoodTech startup with a vision to introduce milk-exosomes to the world of medical foods. The start-up was co-founded in 2021 by four experts from distinct disciplines and includes some of the world’s pioneers in milk-exosome research.
Both Shimon Reif, MD, and Regina Golan-Gerstl, PhD focused extensive research on milk exosomes and their immunomodulatory effects at the Hadassah Medical Center. Yaffa Elbaum Shiff, Ph.D., RD, is a clinical dietitian whose research area includes paediatric nutrition, especially the biological effects of exosomes in human and other mammalian milk, as well as their application in food products. Netta Granot, MSc, MBA has 20 years of experience in leading technology, R&D, and innovation teams in leading food companies. She specializes in the development of baby food, and plant-based formulations.