Arzeda CEO talks AAK joint development agreement: ‘Leveraging the power of AI, we can achieve more sustainable edible oils’

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Designer oils to meet increasing demand for 'healthy, tasty and sustainable food' / Pic: GettyImages_sunny oil
Designer oils to meet increasing demand for 'healthy, tasty and sustainable food' / Pic: GettyImages_sunny oil

Related tags fats and oils Enzyme Innovation

Protein design company Arzeda and specialty fats and oils supplier AAK have entered into a joint development agreement targeting more sustainable plant-based edible oils. FoodNavigator caught up with Dr Alexandre Zanghellini, CEO of Arzeda, to find out more about what the companies hope to achieve – and how they plan to get there.

Seattle-based Arzeda designs new proteins ‘never before seen in nature’.

The food tech innovator's platform is able to optimise proteins – the building blocks that carry out the vast majority of functions within living things – by combining computational protein design high-throughput screening. Its proprietary technology is based on models of protein biophysics and metabolic biochemistry coupled with large-scale computing and the company claims it has achieved a ‘radical change over what's possible with traditional protein engineering’.

“Arzeda uses a combination of physics-based and deep learning approaches to engineer enzymes with unmatched precision,”​ founder and Chief Executive Dr Alexandre Zanghellini told FoodNavigator. “We are not able to disclose the proprietary data sets for training our machine learning algorithms. However, we use data sets generated internally (including direct assay results for each enzyme design campaign), as well as those available in the public domain.”

The company has just entered a joint development agreement with Malmö-headquartered fats and oils specialist AAK. Working collaboratively with partners such as AAK, Arzeda claims it can create solutions that can deliver ‘performance and efficiency benefits’.

The agreement aims to accelerate the innovation of plant-based oils through the application of novel enzymes. The collaboration will utilize Arzeda’s technology platform to optimise proteins to further enhance the sustainability profile of AAK’s plant-based edible oils while potentially uncovering efficiencies in production. The target is to address the continued and growing demand for healthy, tasty and sustainable foods, the companies said.

“While we are not able to disclose details of the project for competitive reasons, our designed enzymes have the ability to both improve the qualities of the oils and improve efficiencies in oils processing. We can do this by designing enzymes - or protein catalysts - for very specific properties to achieve tailored modification of oils, and also to optimise for the optimal process parameters,”​ Dr Zanghellini detailed.

“Leveraging the power of AI, we can dramatically speed up our iterative design cycles to achieve more sustainable, efficiently-produced edible oils. By tailoring the oils to exact specifications that our partners desire, we can ultimately use any feedstock - including more sustainable feedstock - to make any oil. This is the long-term vision, and our collaboration with AAK is a step towards that goal.”

Arzeda, The Protein Design Company
Pic: Arzeda, The Protein Design Company

The chief executive added: “This project is not related to precision fermentation of oils. Cell-free enzyme processing is advantageous compared to precision fermentation for a few reasons. First, it has the scalability of traditional chemical processes, while still being a fully biological solution (low temperature, low pressure, no toxic solvents, etc). Enzymes are more precise and selective than whole-cell fermentation. Second, a cell-free enzymatic process does not require contacting a genetically modified, living organism, with the food ingredient.”

“AAK is thrilled to work with Arzeda to address one of the food industry’s most pressing issues, sustainable plant-based edible oils,”​ commented Karsten Nielsen, CTO of AAK. “We are confident that their full-stack technology platform, spanning AI-based design to enzyme manufacturing, can help accelerate our innovation efforts in biotechnology.”

Specific details of the agreement were not disclosed, but the companies confirmed the collaboration is a mutual endeavour, with milestones and joint commercialisation established as part of the agreement.

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