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Nestlé partners with Nuritas to find healthy peptides

Dublin-based start-up uses artificial intelligence to locate protein fragments that can fight diseases

by Melody M. Bomgardner
February 14, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 8

Credit: Shutterstock
Bioactive peptides can be found in milk proteins.
This photo shows a glass of milk.
Credit: Shutterstock
Bioactive peptides can be found in milk proteins.

Swiss food giant Nestlé says it will collaborate with Dublin-based start-up Nuritas to find bioactive peptides hidden in foods. These health-promoting peptides can be added to functional foods for people with certain medical conditions.

When people drink a glass of milk, their bodies use milk proteins to produce useful stuff like muscles and DNA. But the proteins in food also contain short stretches of amino acids—or peptides—that perform important functions such as fighting inflammation or modulating the immune system.

Normally these bioactive peptides are released from the larger proteins by gut bacteria using hydrolysis. Food and food ingredient companies would like to find the peptides and make them in much larger quantities. Nuritas says it can predict their presence in food and then access them using artificial intelligence and genomics.

A year ago, Nuritas licensed one of its already-discovered peptides to BASF. The German chemical firm says it will be part of an anti-inflammatory sports nutrition ingredient it plans to launch later this year.

In December, Nuritas raised $20 million in its first round of funding led by Cultivian Sandbox Ventures. Earlier investors include Bono and The Edge, two members of the Irish rock band U2.

While Nestle would not comment on what health conditions it plans to target, Nuritas says it is seeking peptides that could prevent diabetes. The company points to statistics showing that more than 350 million people have prediabetes. Roughly 34 million of them will go on to develop the full-blown condition.


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