By Food Futurist, Tony Hunter




In one of the latest advances in personalised microbiome research we have Harvey and Harvetta, ‘virtual physiological humans.’

The researchers “developed a new metabolic network reconstruction approach that used organ-specific information from literature and omics data to generate two sex-specific whole-body metabolic (WBM) reconstructions. These reconstructions capture the metabolism of 26 organs and six blood cell types. Each WBM reconstruction represents whole-body organ-resolved metabolism with over 80,000 biochemical reactions in an anatomically and physiologically consistent manner.”

As well as successfully predicting biomarkers of inherited metabolic diseases they’ve integrated microbiome data to enable host/microbiome interactions to be explored.

These virtual models can therefore be used for both personalised medicine as well as personalised nutrition purposes. With the long-term convergence of food and medical sectors the difference really will be moot.

Personalised microbiome commercialisation

An example of the early personalised microbiome commercialisation is Sun Genomics which just raised US8.65m in Series A financing. Sun’s flagship product is Floré that uses whole-genome sequencing to analyse a consumers microbiome and then supplies personalised products based on their unique microbiome. The USD300 Floré product includes a kit to collect a stool sample which is sent for analysis by partner Illumina. Six weeks later the customer receives a microbiome report and a 90-day supply of tailored probiotics. Early days, but together with the rise of companies such as Viome and Thryve, it’s another definite signal of the future of food.

The Future

The future is that each of us could have a constantly updated ‘virtual physiological twin.’ Rather than the old generic prescription of medicines and/or food, both could easily be personalised to our individual needs.

Personalisation like this is part of the driving force behind the MegaFuture of Food, Personalised Wellness. The microbiome is one of the five technologies driving this MegaFuture as people seek individualised wellness solutions.

We’re barely scratching the surface of microbiome research and there’s lots more to come.

Watch this space!

Dairy is the most vulnerable animal agriculture sector.

Synthetic biology company Perfect Day has just raised USD300 m in series C funding to produce whey protein and milk fat via synthetic biology. But the real news is that they’ve already hit their 2022 whey protein production cost targets. They claim they can manufacture whey at scale for 60% of animal whey costs, so how close does this bring them to that goal? Let’s not forget that they’re partnered with USD62 bn ingredients giant ADM, so scaling won’t be a problem.

If you think that the above is a dairy disruptor how about lactating animal cells? TurtleTree Labs are using cellular agriculture to produce milk by growing lactating mammary gland cells. And by milk, I mean any kind of milk — not just cow milk. In fact, according to TurtleTree’s CEO Fengru Lin their first product will most likely be human milk.

Most of the value of milk is in the 3.3% protein, 3.4 % fat and 0.7 % vitamins and minerals. Disruption of the protein and fat components in food is already underway, what if the high value baby and infant formula market suffers the same fate? After all, we only feed babies and infants’ cows milk as a substitute for human milk. What if we had readily available human milk?

Potentially massive disruption is coming to the dairy industry, but will consumers buy it, literally and figuratively?

Tony Hunter is a global futurist, food scientist, speaker and foresight strategy consultant. He consults and speaks globally, using his distinctive combination of scientific qualifications, business experience and detailed understanding of exponential food technologies to deliver a unique perspective on the future of food.


The information and opinions within this column are not necessarily the views or opinions of Hot Source, NZ Food Technology or the parent company, Hayley Media.