Elogium: Poultry probiotics for safer food

Biotope startup Elogium’s motto is ‘Healthier Animals for Safer Food’. The company is developing a probiotic feed additive for broiler chickens that acts as a natural growth promoter while also combatting pathogens and helping farmers comply with upcoming changes in the EU’s Campylobacter regulation.

Elogium: Poultry probiotics for safer food

Can you tell me a bit about how Elogium was founded?

Katarina Šimunović (Co-founder and CTO): “The story really began several decades ago, with research on bacterial interactions at the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia by our two co-founders, Professor Ines Mandic Mulec and Polonca Štefanič.

About 15 years ago, Polonca isolated a particularly interesting bacterial Bacillus subtilis strain. During my PhD, I tested this strain’s ability to act as a probiotic against pathogens with spectacular results in broiler chickens. We wanted to translate this research into a product that could make a difference on a large scale but had no entrepreneurial skills.

During a scientific matchmaking event organized by a Latvian startup accelerator called the Commercialization Reactor, we met Kārlis.”

Kārlis Ūdris (Co-founder and CEO): “This is where I come into the story. Two years ago, I had just wrapped up an entrepreneurial project and was looking for a new challenge.

When I saw Katarina’s presentation on this probiotic solution for broiler chickens, it instantly caught my attention, since it was super clear how the technology could be used, the benefits, and who it could help. It was a perfect match, so in summer 2021, Katarina, Ines, Polonca, and I founded Elogium to turn this promise into a real product.”

You say it’s clear who this technology will help and how. Can you tell us about that?

Kārlis Ūdris: “Our product is going to benefit farmers who raise broiler chickens, firstly by helping producers comply with upcoming changes in the EU regulation on Campylobacter, the number one most widespread food pathogen in the world according to the UN. It’s most commonly transmitted through chickens, which can survive with a certain amount of the bacteria in their gut systems.

People often get infected if they eat raw chicken meat or accidentally ingest something that has been contaminated by it, leading to gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and diarrhea, or even death for certain patient groups.

The EU has decided to lower the threshold for acceptable amounts of Campylobacter in broiler chickens in Europe by 30%, a change which will go into effect in 2025. The problem for farmers is that they currently don’t have any effective methods of lowering the amount of Campylobacter by that much.

This is where Elogium’s solution comes in: we are developing a probiotic feed additive based on good bacteria that actively kill Campylobacter.”

Our product not only reduces Campylobacter presence in the chicken gut – it’s also a natural growth promoter that increases the chickens’ body weight. It’s a ‘two birds, one stone’ solution

Katarina Šimunović

Katarina Šimunović: “There is also a second benefit. For a long time, farmers have constantly fed antibiotics to their livestock, not only to preemptively combat bacterial infections but also because antibiotics are very effective growth promotors, increasing the animals’ body weight.

To this day, about 80% of the world’s antibiotics are fed to farm animals, a habit which is becoming increasingly problematic as it’s giving rise to widespread antibiotic resistance that is affecting both animals and people. An increasing demand from consumers for 100% antibiotics-free products makes it clear that farmers need an alternative solution, which is what we can provide.

Our product not only reduces Campylobacter presence in the chicken gut – it’s also a natural growth promoter that increases the chickens’ body weight. It’s a ‘two birds, one stone’ solution.”

What’s next for the company?

Kārlis Ūdris: “Our focus last year was on business development. This year, with the funds from biotope and our other investors, we will ramp up our R&D activities and get our product ready for EFSA approval and a commercial launch. Biotope is really helping us with this transition, through both funds and facilities but also their scientific network – we’re already in touch with several potential partner institutions that can help us with production and further testing of our product.

With 10 billion chickens produced every year in just the EU, we’re aiming big! So being able to scale up our production is absolutely crucial. We also have large independent in vivo trials planned over the coming 18 months to further test the efficacy of our product, with one of those being performed by ILVO at their facilities in Ghent. Which I’m personally really happy about, because Ghent is the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to!”

With 10 billion chickens produced every year in the EU, we’re aiming big!

Kārlis Ūdris

Katarina Šimunović: “We have an exciting couple of years coming up, also in terms of further research. Our strain’s ability to actively kill Campylobacter is truly incredible – during in vivo testing we’ve found that a single Bacillus subtilis PS-216 bacterium is able to beat 10,000 Campylobacters. But in addition to combatting Campylobacter, we’re also in the process of exploring this strain’s ability to counteract other types of pathogens too.

We’ve already seen good results against Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus, and amazing results against Listeria. And in addition to broiler chickens, we believe our product could also be beneficial for other animals.

We’re also actively working on expanding our pipeline to include other promising bacterial strains. We want to have as big an impact on animal health as possible.”

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