Leading biotech startup Shiru commercializes the first food ingredient developed using its AI-powered technology platform
- Shiru’s novel, plant protein-based fat ingredient, OleoPro™, works just like animal fat – without the negative environmental costs or health consequences. OleoPro™ reduces saturated fat up to 90% compared to commonly used structured fats, while enhancing the technical performance of alternative proteins.
- Shiru scientists relied on artificial intelligence to develop, launch, and begin commercializing OleoPro™ in only a few months and for a fraction of the cost of “synbio 1.0” ingredients.
- After OleoPro™’s successful debut in March at a global food tech conference, Shiru will expand its partnership with Griffith Foods to leverage OleoPro™ to bring best-in-class alternative protein products to market.
Alameda, CA (June 20, 2023) – Shiru, an AI-powered discovery and development company for novel ingredients, has commercialized the first food ingredient developed using its patented artificial intelligence-powered discovery system.
The biotech startup confirmed this week the commercial launch of OleoPro™, a novel, plant protein-based fat ingredient for use in a range of alternative protein food products. OleoPro™ enables an up to 90% reduction in saturated fat while enhancing technical performance in alternative meats when compared to commonly used, carbon-intensive and cardiovascularly damaging structured fats. OleoPro™ is self-standing; holds its shape at room temperature; browns when cooked; and delivers a juicy, fatty mouthfeel in plant-based meat applications.
The first commercial partner for OleoPro™ is Griffith Foods, a purpose-driven product development partner and global manufacturer of delicious, nutritious, and sustainable food-ingredient solutions. Founded in 1919, Alsip, Ill.-based Griffith specializes in providing these solutions to the alternative protein, sauces and dressings, seasonings, and coating systems segments.
Shiru debuted OleoPro™ in March at a global food tech conference in a plant-based chicken karaage, developed by Griffith’s corporate venture arm, Nourish Ventures. After overwhelmingly positive feedback from consumers and chefs, Griffith became OleoPro™’s first revenue-generating customer – and Griffith and Shiru then expanded their partnership to leverage OleoPro™ to bring best-in-class alternative protein products to market.
“One of the biggest barriers to making delicious, nutritious, and scalable food is cost – specifically the burden of developing plant-based ingredients that perform exactly like their high-carbon animal analogs,” said Shiru CEO and founder Dr. Jasmin Hume. “Shiru’s pioneering use of artificial intelligence is collapsing the cost and time cycle of food innovation – and that’s why dozens of companies are looking to outsource development projects for key ingredients to our world-class team.”
Shiru: AI from the get-go
Shiru was founded in 2019 as a business-to-business synthetic biology company, helping multinational ingredient makers on deep R&D. The company has worked directly with global food conglomerates including CP Kelco, Puratos and more. Shiru has been using artificial intelligence and machine learning since its founding to drive down the cost of molecule discovery and scaleup, rapidly identifying the most high-functionality, commercializable, and natural proteins for food from a database of hundreds of millions.
To produce OleoPro™, Shiru’s biochemists and computational biologists used AI to scan and select nearly 10,000 formulations in less than three months. Then they determined the precise molecules that would combine to form an ingredient with the unique oil-holding protein scaffold of animal fat.
Shiru’s use of AI significantly accelerates the pace of synthetic biology, which combines engineering with biology to design and build new biological systems. Classical “synbio” tools include genetic engineering, DNA synthesis and cell engineering; combined with AI, synbio could revolutionize medicine, agriculture, and energy within a half decade.
“Synbio 1.0”-era technologies captured investors’ attention a decade ago, with billions invested toward the use of these tools to bring disruptive products to market. While this investment unlocked meaningful innovation, including the development of ingredients used by some of today’s most prominent alternative protein companies, the path to get there was both costly and time-intensive — and as a result, prices for alternative protein products remain stubbornly high.
“Instead of a half decade and more than a quarter billion dollars in R&D to ship a viable product, Shiru used AI to dramatically reduce the cost and time to market of an essential ingredient of plant-based meat to a matter of months and a few hundred thousand dollars – and the cost of protein discovery at Shiru continues to decline,” said Dr. Ranjani Varadan, Shiru Chief Scientific Officer. Previously VP of R&D at Impossible Foods, Varadan joined Impossible in 2011 as the team’s first scientist and led its protein discovery process for more than a decade.
“AI represents a step-function advance for synbio overall,” Varadan said, “and the key unlock to making sustainable proteins scalable and affordable.”
Shiru develops novel ingredients for food and consumer products. The company’s patented technology platform, Flourish™, leverages artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, and precision biology to rapidly generate insights and identify molecules that are natural, highly functional, and suitable for large-scale production. Shiru’s team of technology experts and CPG veterans are proud to be the hidden driver of products that are better performing, better for people, and better for the planet. Shiru is based in Alameda, California, and is backed by leading venture capital firms such as S2G Ventures, Lux Capital, CPT Capital, and Nourish Ventures. For more information, visit www.shiru.com.