The unexpected solution to reduce animal loss, cut costs and save the planet

March 14, 2024

The global demand for protein is creating multiple pressures on the agrifood industry. NovoBind, one of NPC’s earliest investee companies, is tackling some of those issues with its powerful animal health solutions that are sustainable and cost-effective, while mitigating one of the biggest global challenges; resistance to antibiotics. In advance of the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit in San Francisco, we spoke to Hamlet Abnousi about the company, and its role in creating a healthier world.

What’s the origin story of NovoBind?

Hamlet Abnousi, Co-founder and CEO, NovoBind

A group of us wanted to find a way to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which is associated with nearly 5 million deaths per year accordingly to the World Health Organization. And we knew the only way to make an impact is with exceptional science in a profitable business model that would actually provide returns to investors. So that’s what we started.

So why food production?

There’s multiple intervention points in the AMR ecosystem that could make a difference.  We targeted food production because that’s where 80% of antimicrobials are used. It’s contributing to the global spread of antimicrobial resistance but it also has devastating impacts on the environment and farming communities.

And it’s not just as simple as removing antibiotics or antimicrobials?

Sadly, no. Removing common antimicrobials from production has resulted in increased incidence of infectious diseases. We’re looking at 5 diseases responsible for 10-15% losses to global production each year. That means substantial losses to producers – $25B – so there’s financial implications, but there’s also an environmental impact such as water and land waste.

How so?

To raise animals, we use a lot of water and land and generate greenhouse gases (GHGs). Just look at poultry for example. The production of each kilogram of chicken requires more than 3100 litres of water and 50 square metres of land and results in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 3.1 kilograms of CO2. Global poultry production has surpassed 137 million metric tonnes annually. So we’re looking at 433 trillion litres of water and 691 million hectares of land, and total GHG emissions of 425 million metric tonnes of CO2 equivalents. If you’re losing 10% to disease, that means 10% of all the water, land and emissions was for nothing.

Put another way, a ten percent improvement in chicken productivity through the control of important infectious diseases is the equivalent of removing 9.2 million cars off the road, leaving 17 million Olympic swimming pools worth of fresh water at its source, and having 130 million football fields of land to put to other uses.

So how close is NovoBind to helping producers address those losses?

Our first products target two diseases: necrotic enteritis (NE) in poultry and early mortality syndrome (EMS) in shrimp.

In shrimp, we have seen near complete neutralization in our disease model. In poultry, we have shown close to 70% reduction in mortality in a highly aggressive challenge trial and our molecules outperformed the antibiotic control.

But another key KPI for farmers is feed conversion – that’s the ratio of feed consumed to poultry produced. In our trial, we showed nearly 80% recovery of feed conversion that had been lost to NE – that’s a 12-point improvement compared to untreated chickens. Folks in the industry are blown away by this as it means they can recover much of the loss caused by NE. All the data is on our website. We conducted very stringent 3rd party trials with the Southern Poultry Research Group and ShrimpVet so partners we’re talking to love how comprehensive and objective the data is.

Are there side effects or any issues with humans eating the food from these animals?

That’s the best part – we’re seeing results that outrival antibiotics. But we’re doing it with NBXs – they are specialized antibody fragments derived from llamas. They don’t kill the pathogen, but instead they keep it from harming the animal. So unlike antibiotics, we’re not creating the conditions for the pathogen to keep mutating to survive. And there is no impact on the treated animal – their microbiome stays intact, which is important for its wellbeing. So it’s completely safe. NBXs are already used in human therapeutics and are USDA regulated.

So it’s good for animals, and good for farmers. How are you going to make it good for business?

To start, we have the two products for NE and EMS, which represent a $250M accessible market. We’re working in a partnership model – essentially anyone already producing biologics or probiotics can produce our NBXs as a free by-product. The product is delivered through feed so there are numerous partnering opportunities. And the performance at an economic dosage is best in class.

We have already proven early-stage profitability in our vectored probiotic solutions. There are massive profit pools left behind by farmers that have become so accustomed to the ravages of the diseases we target. We hope to gain some of this profit while sharing the benefits with the farmers and the commercialization partners. And we have a tremendous pipeline so we can grow with the needs of our partners, basically acting like their innovation engine.

Are there others working in this space?

We are a pioneer for nanobodies in our diseases. We’ve been stringent with our science – incorporating the 3rd party data to ensure no false positives or negatives. We did all of that to ensure that we could compete as newcomers joined the space. Our industry advisors are some of the best in the business. They believe the future of animal health is in nanobodies, and they love our data and approach so they’re working with us. All of that says we’re doing something they’re not seeing anywhere else.

What are you hoping to achieve at the Animal AgTech Innovation Summit?

We are tackling massive problems that really matter. So, we’re looking for like-minded industrial partners for staged commercialization. And, of course, we’re always looking for investors who are the right fit to be part of our success.

Don’t miss NovoBind’s presentation on the main stage of the Animal AgTech summit on Monday, March 18th at 4:30pm. To learn more about NovoBind, contact NPC, or reach out to Hamlet Abnousi directly.