Ascus pioneers endomicrobial ecology

Emerging science harnesses natural diversity of an animal’s microbiome.

Ascus is pioneering endomicrobial ecology, an emerging science harnessing the natural diversity within an animal’s microbiome to improve animal health and performance.

Integrating recent advancements in DNA and RNA sequencing methods with breakthrough methods of computational analysis, endomicrobial ecology fingerprints the specific microbes naturally residing within an animal’s gastrointestinal system and identifies how the microbes function and interact to influence health and performance, the company announced.

Based on this proprietary discovery platform, Ascus scientists have uncovered novel microbial strains -- native to the animal -- with a clear health and performance benefit. The goal of Ascus scientists is to use this enhanced understanding of an animal’s microbiome to develop products and services that improve the overall health and performance of animals.

“There is a tremendous demand for more natural products that help solve some of the most important problems within animal systems,” Mike Seely, chief executive officer and co-founder of Ascus, said. “We believe that identifying the right microbes from the ground up represents the next wave of innovation for our industry.”

The animal health and nutrition community has long sought natural approaches to supplementing the beneficial microbes existing within an animal’s microbiome. However, the science essential to understanding the specific functions and interactions between microbes within the animal have only recently become available on a cost-effective scale.

Ascus said it combined high-throughput sequencing methods with proprietary computational methods to illuminate the inner workings of an animal’s microbiome. Starting in dairy cows, Ascus curated the largest dairy rumen microbe data set in the world to identify 50,000-plus unique microbial strains from more than 4,500 dairy cow rumen samples.

Analysis of these samples allowed researchers to identify a core set of common microbial strains distinguishing high-performing dairy cows from their lesser-performing peers. Researchers then analyzed the relationships between these microbes and how they affect dairy cow functions and health.

The insights resulting from de novo discovery research in endomicrobial ecology are building new tools to manage animal health and performance.

According to Dr. William Weldon, chief operations officer at Ascus, endomicrobial ecology allows these new products to support the animal with solutions tailored to the animal’s natural biology.

“There is no other technology or product that uses novel beneficial microbes derived from the animal’s own (gastrointestinal) system to improve gastrointestinal health and performance,” Weldon said. “When used as the basis for feed supplements, the science of endomicrobial ecology is distinct from other additive technologies currently used in animal health and nutrition.”

Following animal validation trials around the globe that show improvements in dairy cow health and performance, Ascus will introduce its first endomicrobial feed supplement following regulatory approvals starting as early as 2018.

“Today’s consumers are increasingly interested in how their food is raised,” said Dr. Mallory Embree, Ascus co-founder and chief scientific officer. “Because this science is based on the animal’s unique microbiome, the innovations developed using endomicrobial ecology provide a naturally safe and highly effective approach to supporting animal health and performance.”

Founded in 2015 and based in San Diego, Cal., with commercial operations headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., Ascus Biosciences is focused on discovering, developing and commercializing first-in-class endomicrobial products for the animal health and nutrition industries. Ascus has a broad pipeline of all-natural, endomicrobial products in development across livestock and companion animals.

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