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Biotech startup, Shiru, commercializes first food ingredient developed using its AI-powered technology platform

Biotech startup, Shiru, commercializes first food ingredient developed using its AI-powered technology platform

June 21, 2023

Shiru, an AI-powered discovery and development company for novel ingredients, has commercialized the first food ingredient developed using its patented artificial intelligence-powered discovery system.

The biotech startup confirmed this week the commercial launch of OleoPro, a novel, plant protein-based fat ingredient for use in a range of alternative protein food products. OleoPro enables a up to a 90% reduction in saturated fat while enhancing technical performance in alternative meats when compared to commonly used, carbon-intensive and cardiovascularly damaging structured fats. OleoPro is self-standing; holds its shape at room temperature; browns when cooked; and delivers a juicy, fatty mouthfeel in plant-based meat applications.

The first commercial partner for OleoPro is Griffith Foods, a purpose-driven product development partner and global manufacturer of delicious, nutritious, and sustainable food-ingredient solutions. Founded in 1919, Alsip, Ill.-based Griffith specializes in providing these solutions to the alternative protein, sauces and dressings, seasonings, and coating systems segments.

Shiru debuted OleoPro in March in a plant-based chicken karaage, developed by Griffith’s corporate venture arm, Nourish Ventures. After overwhelmingly positive feedback from consumers and chefs, Griffith became OleoPro’s first revenue-generating customer – and Griffith and Shiru then expanded their partnership to leverage OleoPro to bring best-in-class alternative protein products to market.

“One of the biggest barriers to making delicious, nutritious and scalable food is cost – specifically the burden of developing plant-based ingredients that perform exactly like their high-carbon animal analogs,” said Dr Jasmin Hume, Shiru CEO & Founder. “Shiru’s pioneering use of artificial intelligence is collapsing the cost and time cycle of food innovation – and that’s why dozens of companies are looking to outsource development projects for key ingredients to our world-class team.”

Shiru was founded in 2019 as a business-to-business synthetic biology company, helping multinational ingredient makers on deep R&D. The company has worked directly with global food conglomerates including CP Kelco, Puratos and more. Shiru has been using artificial intelligence and machine learning since its founding to drive down the cost of molecule discovery and scaleup, rapidly identifying the most high-functionality, commercializable, and natural proteins for food from a database of hundreds of millions.

To produce OleoPro, Shiru’s biochemists and computational biologists used AI to scan and select nearly 10,000 formulations in less than three months. Then they determined the precise molecules that would combine to form an ingredient with the unique oil-holding protein scaffold of animal fat.

Shiru’s use of AI significantly accelerates the pace of synthetic biology, which combines engineering with biology to design and build new biological systems. Classical 'synbio' tools include genetic engineering, DNA synthesis and cell engineering; combined with AI, synbio could revolutionize medicine, agriculture, and energy within a half decade.

Synbio 1.0-era technologies captured investors' attention a decade ago, with billions invested toward the use of these tools to bring disruptive products to market. Although this investment unlocked meaningful innovation, including the development of ingredients used by some of today’s most prominent alternative protein companies, the path to get there was both costly and time-intensive — and as a result, prices for alternative protein products remain stubbornly high.

“Instead of a half decade and more than a quarter billion dollars in R&D to ship a viable product, Shiru used AI to dramatically reduce the cost and time to market of an essential ingredient of plant-based meat to a matter of months and a few hundred thousand dollars – and the cost of protein discovery at Shiru continues to decline,” added Dr Ranjani Varadan, Shiru Chief Scientific Officer. Previously VP of R&D at Impossible Foods, Varadan joined Impossible in 2011 as the team’s first scientist and led its protein discovery process for more than a decade.

“AI represents a step-function advance for synbio overall,” Varadan concluded, “and the key unlock to making sustainable proteins scalable and affordable.”

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with us, please email info@futureofproteinproduction.com

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