28 November 2018- Things are changing at Phileo. The Animal Care division of Lesaffre, which has supplied yeasts for 160 years, is now readying itself for an unprecedented pace of new product launches. Global strategy director Gildas Joalland says this will reach four or five new products annually over the next few years. “We are going deeper and extending our expertise not only to yeast and yeast products, but also into all biotechnology [applications] including bacteria and fungi, so we have a broad spectrum of expertise.”
As Phileo Lesaffre accelerates its innovation efforts, it is also widening its horizons, focusing on species outside its traditional base in the ruminants market. This autumn, for example, the company engaged in a major push in the aqua market with the launch of Prosaf, a purified yeast extract intended to complement the vegetable proteins which are increasingly being used in carnivorous aqua species.
As stated by Mr. Joalland, Prosaf represents a “creative strategy” in the face of requirements to curb fishmeal use as much as possible. Though high in protein with levels of above 63%, Prosaf is not a 1-1 replacement for fishmeal, he explains; its inclusion levels in feed are in fact quite low, allowing more flexibility to nutritionists when formulating diets. Instead, with a 1-2% inclusion rate, Prosaf provides nutrients that might not be adequately available from vegetable diets—free-form essential amino acids and small-size peptides among them. It also enhances gut health, mitigating the impacts of diets high in antinutritional factors. “We could have explored different options, producing some biomass—single-cell protein—as has already been done on the market,” says Mr. Joalland, but instead, the company is “thinking differently.” Admitting that yeast production capacity is limited, and the ingredient will not be in a position to replace fishmeal anytime soon, he says, means that a truly useful solution needs to be complimentary to the more likely future protein of choice—vegetable protein. “Maybe the most sustainable way is to feed these species on a plant-based diet, [so] our challenge was to help the industry not to lose on performance.”
However, concerns about gut health and performance are hardly unique to the aqua sector. This year’s Eurotier will provide a platform for Phileo to launch Prosaf in the European piglet market. The product is seen as particularly useful for transition periods where producers are coming under pressure to use fewer antibiotics, and even in some jurisdictions losing access to other tools such as blood plasma products. According to Mr. Joalland, Prosaf had a successful introduction to the Chinese swine market earlier this year—“People are really interested, they want to test the product [under their conditions],” he says. Of course, he recounts, Prosaf for piglets has already proven its worth in performance trials; he claims these have shown improvements to growth and FCR “and it seems that Prosaf at 2% of inclusion will give the same performance as plasma at 4%, twice the dose, so it’s really an efficient product at a low dose.”
Phileo Lesaffre’s current innovation push also involves venturing into an entirely different category of products. As Eric Auclair, Global R&D Director of Phileo Lesaffre, explains, immunity has emerged as a key research area for the company. And their new product, set to launch at Eurotier, builds on the exciting new concept of immune training. Known as Safglucan, the solution consists of a purified beta glucan which can be applied to all species, as it engages with the innate immune system. Contrary to vaccination, which protects against a single pathogen, Safglucan aims to train the innate immune system for a better response to a broad spectrum of pathogens. “Macrophages exposed to beta glucans are ready to fight back more efficiently against an upcoming infection,” he states. The idea is to mobilize the first lines of defence of the animal, its innate immunity, which can react very quickly, compared to specific immunity which takes longer to react.”
The concept, Dr. Auclair recounts, was developed when working on mastitis—a multifactorial disease which can be caused by several different pathogens, making it difficult to solve with only vaccines—but the underlying principle is widely applicable. “What we try to develop is a special knowledge of how to improve innate immunity before a given infection. If you take the mastitis problem, you have a dairy cow that is globally in a high inflammation stage during transition. The solutions you can give to an animal in these conditions are not exactly the same as for a very young calf in the early age which has a depressed immunity; in this case you have no inflammation, it’s the contrary.” He also says Safglucan has been tested in broilers and swine, and was shown to improve reactions to vaccines, particularly inactivated vaccines. “You can enhance immune responses significantly with purified beta glucans compared to crude yeast cell walls, for example,” states Dr. Auclair.
“This is a brand new concept in animal nutrition… a very hot topic,” Dr. Auclair confides. It is part of Phileo’s goal to develop a strong position in immunity, with a special view to innate immunity. This might be considered remarkable for an animal nutrition company—but indeed, he argues that the boundary between animal nutrition and health will increasingly be challenged by concepts which blur the distinction between the two. “The future of our research is really focused on microbiota and immunity.”
In order to drive the market in emerging aspects of animal care, the company is investing heavily in its research and development abilities. One important element of this has been the reinforcement of strain selection capacities. “We have developed some discovery tools, high-throughput systems to improve our screening capabilities,” Dr. Auclair says. Moreover, Mr. Joalland adds, these capabilities were essential to the development of Safglucan; as he recounts, “The first step was to screen different beta glucan from different yeast cell wall origins, and to select the most performing ones based on in vitro models and to really prove the mode of action…but not all beta glucans work the same, it’s really fraction, process, and strain-specific.”
When it comes to the selection of a strain (or strains) from among the most likely candidates, the company relies on innovative in vitro modelling of the digestive system dynamics, a domain in which it considers itself to have long been in the vanguard. Dr. Auclair claims they were among the first to use a dual flow system, an “artificial rumen”, to study the interaction of feed additives, ruminal microflora, rumen juices, and fibers and nutrients in an in vitro environment. This was key to the company’s portfolio diversification, namely in selecting specific yeast probiotics for their ability to reduce redux potential and improve rumen function. Now, says Dr. Auclair, they are creating a new platform for the intensive study of the monogastric digestive system, including schematic representations of the stomach and small intestine as well as the hind gut. Their rationale is to develop new ways of screening using high-performance in vitro models before ever moving into animal testing, out of respect for animal welfare.
In short, he argues, “this strong investment in R&D at the corporate level of Phileo will help us to develop our portfolio, to diversify our portfolio, and to offer to the markets in different species some specific and multivalent solutions to address existing and future challenges of the feed industry.”