Exosomes naturally occur at high concentrations in breastmilk. These nano-sized particles contain beneficial microRNAs: small, single-stranded, non-coding RNA molecules shown in studies to have a significant impact on early child development and health.
But their potential in managing immune-related disorders such as IBD and diabetes in adults was discovered through research led by professor Shimon Reif, MD, head of the department of paediatrics at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem and now CMO and co-founder of Exosomm, Ltd. His team also discovered that humans as well as mammals such as dairy cows shared similar exosome composition, spurring the decision to set-up the company in a bid to discover an efficient and scalable way to derive the nanoparticles.
Leading the whey
Exosomm’s technology consists of naturally-isolated exosomes from upcycled byproducts of the traditional cheesemaking process. The method was developed in the Israeli Hadassah University Medical Center by the company’s co-founder and CTO, Regina Golan-Gerstl, PhD. The start-up also collaborated with Ba’emek Tech, a dairy food producer which specializes in the production of whey and provides the raw material as well as the commercial technological infrastructure required for scaling-up production.
“One of the challenges was to transform the developed technology into a commercially viable process,” commented Netta Granot, co-founder and CEO of Exosomm.
“It was essential to find a facility that can collect the whey leftover from cheesemaking and process it in a way that ensures the isolated exosomes maintain their unique set of bioavailable properties."
“We employ a wholly natural process, without chemicals, while adhering to all the required regulations for food safety and quality,” Granot added. “Moreover, it was important for us to derive the milk benefits without exerting any burden on milk production. That’s why we run a circular system that depends solely on the whey side stream of the cheese industry.”
The start-up’s is targeting the medical food space and food formulas intended for consumers with special dietary requirements. The exosomes can also be integrated as a functional ingredient in numerous food and beverage applications, we were told, and the company is ready to scale-up, having adapted its process to deliver its patent-protected exosomes at a commercial scale.
Professor Reif added: “Exosomm’s technology is based on cutting-edge scientific discoveries and is inspired by the virtues of mother’s milk and its unique health properties. We believe adults, can benefit from exosomes as a valuable nutrient to help better manage chronic metabolic inflammatory disorders and to boost overall well-being. Further clinical research is in the pipeline, and we currently are focusing our studies on the role of exosomes in managing inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s and Colitis.”
10 million patients experienced ‘no adverse effects’
A series of preclinical studies, including in human 3D organoid models conducted by the Exosomm team, have demonstrated the ability of exosomes to reduce IBD inflammation scores, suggesting the opportunity to boost resilience and enhance the nutritional status of the 10 million IBD patients, and with no adverse effects. They also were shown to boost glucose tolerance and prevent pancreatic and liver damage.
The start-up has so far accrued $1m pre-seed investment from Ofek- Galil incubator supported by the Israeli Innovation Authority. The firm was founded in 2021. Shimon Reif and Regina Golan-Gerstl focused extensive research on milk exosomes and their immunomodulatory effects at the Hadassah Medical Center, while the other two co-founders are Yaffa Elbaum Shiff, PhD - a clinical dietitian whose research area includes paediatric nutrition, particularly the biological effects of exosomes in human and other mammalian milk, as well as their application in food products; and Netta Granot, who has 20 years of experience in the food industry and specializes in the development of baby food and plant-based formulations.