Wulf-Dieter Moll, research team leader for molecular biology at Biomin, told us about how the discovery process works at the Austria-based company, and how a new product to neutralize mycotoxins in feed is developed, when we caught up with him at the company's world nutrition forum in Vancouver in October.
“The most intriguing part is finding something new, a new enzyme, a new gene and developing a technology from that,” he said. “There are many steps that one needs to get right until an enzyme is turned into a technology that can be made available to the market.”
The company, known for its work with technologies to detoxify mycotoxins like fumonisins, is ramping up its R&D efforts to develop additional products to control other mycotoxins.
Developing an enzyme product to address the presence of a mycotoxin in feed can be a multi-year process, said Moll. “For FUMzyme it took us about 10 years from discovery of the enzyme to getting the registration,” he added.
In addition to initial research steps and feeding trials, potential enzymes have to be engineered to be thermo-stable so they can remain viable through the feed manufacturing process, he said. “We change the amino acid sequence to come up with a temperature stable version,” he added.
“It goes in rounds of making mutants, and selecting the best mutants, and screening thousands and thousands of variants and the whole process takes more than a year,” he said. “But it is an essential part of the process, because customers expect the enzymes to be stable enough to be pelleted.”
Once added to a feed, the enzyme is activated in the intestinal track of an animal, said Moll.
“Enzymes need water to be effective and the substrate of the toxin needs to be dissolved in water so that it can diffuse to the active site and be cleaved,” he said. “It’s a hydrolytic reaction, so even the reaction needs a molecule of water and typically animal feed processing is done dry, so there’s no opportunity for the enzyme to work before the feed is taken up by the animal.”
The company is currently focusing its attention on finding a heat-stable enzyme that could be used to neutralize zearalenone, said Moll.
“We have very good enzyme candidates,” he said. “So far we have proof of technical feasibility, so now a feeding trial with biomarkers so we know the enzyme is working [is needed].”
The team must also establish a production process to produce the enzyme in a cost effective manner, he said.
Additionally, the company is looking at detoxification during the bioethanol production to ensure elimination of mycotoxins in co-products used in feed such as distillers dried grains and solubles, he added.
“We’ve looked into that and we know that FUMzyme works in the bioethanol process – that’s something for the future,” he said. "We already have EU approval for the deactivation of mycotoxins in feed.