At S2G Ventures, we believe a healthier food system is the under-recognized solution to critical global challenges, including our current (avoidable) healthcare crisis. Numerous scientific studies have linked poor diets to various chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. Our current food system offers an abundance of cheap calories leading to a health crisis with over 40% of American adults being classified as obese and more than 100 million adults falling under a pre-diabetic classification. We believe our future food system can not only reverse this health crisis but offer an alternative and attractive pathway to improve human health and wellbeing.
A critical part of the solution is something we have relied upon for centuries - plants. Specifically the numerous phytonutrients or the small molecules within them that activate specific biological mechanisms in the human body and support human health.
The next question you might be asking is “What the heck is a phytonutrient?" To be honest I didn’t know either, but learned they are incredibly powerful and until now, little understood. They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, they are abundant in nature and we have been eating them since the beginning of humankind. But as our food system has become more homogeneous and commoditized, our bodies are not getting as many phytonutrients as they used to get, compromising our health.
For tens of thousands of years, we have relied on plants for nutrition, medicine, clothes and many other products we use every day but know very little about the phytonutrients that they contain. It was a blank spot on the map of human health. Less than 1% of phytonutrients have been catalogued, let alone studied for their potential, making the other 99% an untapped resource of potential health, beauty, cleaning and other wellness products.
We are thrilled to back Brightseed, a biosciences company and creator of Forager®, the world’s first and only artificial intelligence that maps the hidden world of phytonutrients and their impact on human health, and to congratulate them on their recent announcement of preclinical data from their first major discovery targeting liver and metabolic health. A true breakthrough.
Using AI to Reveal Powerful Compounds Found in Nature
Forager has analyzed approximately 700,000 compounds in the edible and medicinal plant kingdom for their health properties, and is on track to surpass 10 million by 2025, finding dozens and even hundreds of useful phytonutrients to improve the human conditions and the planet itself. Using traditional methods, it would have taken 50,000+ years to map the phytonutrients in the plant kingdom. Forager applies an exponentially faster computational approach, searching a continually growing database for new compounds and combinations, then linking them to human health conditions.
Learn how it works, directly from their team.
A Promising Plant-based Solution for Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
Last week, Brightseed announced preclinical data from their first major discovery resulting from the Forager platform which identified two natural compounds, N-trans caffeoyltyramine (NTC) and N-trans-feruloyltyramine (NTF), that address the accumulation and clearance of liver fat. This marks an important milestone both for the Forager platform and for treatment of a global health condition.
The liver is the body’s primary metabolic organ and a healthy liver helps avoid metabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is a complex metabolic disorder that causes fat buildup in the liver, which impacts approximately one quarter of adults in the U.S. Although there are many risk factors for developing NAFLD, the disease is closely linked to obesity. Currently, there are no approved therapeutics to treat this major health condition.
“We founded Brightseed with the thesis that the natural plant world is an incredibly rich and uncharted source of powerful small molecules for health. With A.I. and machine learning, we can now navigate this underexplored world at a pace, scale, and level of accuracy that were previously unattainable. These preclinical findings provide compelling data for a natural solution that activates a specific human biological target to address an emerging global health crisis.”
- Dr. Lee Chae, Brightseed’s co-founder and CTO.
On the basis of their potent in vivo effects and excellent safety profile, these new agonists identified by Forager appear to be strong candidates for nutraceuticals and a starting point for therapeutics that can help maintain liver health and a healthy metabolism. These findings could have profound implications for more than two billion people worldwide who are at elevated risk of chronic metabolic diseases. Brightseed will now work to identify the lead compound candidate to move forward to clinical trials in 2021.
The Future Potential
It is estimated that the US alone is spending ~$5 billion annually in health care costs
related to fatty liver disease, including chemotherapy, transplants, tests, and
hospitalizations, but this is expected to rise to ~$18 billion if treatments don’t evolve. There’s not only a huge market for just this first discovery, but there’s also a huge need.
"The most exciting revelation is the understanding that plants ALREADY have the answers, and now, with Forager, we have a map to find them. The small molecules of plants are inherently powerful, with important applications across food, medicine, and personal care. It's amazing to comprehend."
- Chuck Templeton, Managing Director S2G Ventures.
Forager is enabling a future where we can understand the linkage between the plants we consume and our health at a molecular level that was previously not possible. Imagine a future in which we have natural solutions that have similar biological impacts without the side effects of drugs. Or one in which we can grow, harvest, and process food to optimize for phytonutrients. Or one in which we can leverage the health-beneficial aspects of plants that are often wasted, including their skins, shells, and peels. Brightseed’s first preclinical milestone is both a proof point of the Forager platform and a critical first step to unlocking the power of phytonutrients to proactively support health.