One-liner: A growing, profitable probiotics startup with an anti-hangover product on the market, plans for more, and a patented enzyme-delivery technology that could be useful for longevity interventions.
Longevity Dealflow WG Team
Reviewers: Not reviewed yet
Shepherd: Tim Peterson
Other squad members: Nina Patrick, Paolo Binetti
Sourced by: Tim Peterson
Project PI: Zachary Abbott
ZBiotics is a VC-backed Bay-area biotech founded in 2016, which makes the world’s first genetically engineered probiotic product. Their technology is based on inserting enzyme-coding DNA in safe bacteria and orally delivering them to the gut. Their first product is capable of breaking down acetaldehyde, a highly toxic byproduct of alcohol, thus ameliorating next-day effects of alcohol, by targeting one of the root causes. The company is generating growing revenues and strong gross margin and is looking to expand to new markets and products, for example to improve gut health. Their platform could also be used to deliver enzyme-based interventions to target disease and extend healthy years.
Problem and solution
#1: The next-day effects of alcohol
With the growing health and wellness approach to alcohol, consumers are looking for solutions to help with hangovers. Each year there are 2.6 billion hangovers in the US which result in $179B lost in reduced productivity, not to mention long-term health consequences.
One of the key causes of hangover is acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct of alcohol consumption and a risk factor for cancer development. In particular, acetaldehyde is widely considered to be the most potent in colorectal carcinogenesis through its interactions with various cellular and biochemical processes
Most existing anti-hangover products simply mix off-the-shelf supplements that do not target root causes of next-day effects and and do not work.
Zbiotics is the first product which addresses acetaldehyde. ZBiotic’s first strain – B. subtilis ZB183™ – contains a trait for acetaldehyde breakdown from the liver into a probiotic bacteria for the purpose of helping you feel better after drinking alcohol. It is patent-protected under US Pat. 10,849,938 B2. The product was determined “Generally Recognized As Safe (“GRAS”) by an expert panel, and the safety data was published in a peer-reviewed journal.
#2: Gut Health
Product in stealth until launch. Patent granted, product to launch in 2023.
The bacteria strain used by Zbiotics is a B. subtilis strain which has naturally evolved to pass your stomach acid unharmed in a dormant form. When it reaches the gut it senses the new environment, essentially wakes up and starts to produce the specific enzyme it was engineered to produce. The Zbiotic will take 18 to 24 hours to pass through the gut and be cleared from the body.
Zbiotics does not contain any antibiotic resistance genes. Only genes that are already present in the gut environment are used in their products.
Genetically engineering bacteria has been common for decades but products have been slow to reach the market because of the indication the products are being designed for. Zbiotics reached the market first by not focusing on a drug or a disease, but rather by building a probiotic, essentially a food product, for healthy people.
Zbiotics has demonstrated statistically significant breakdown of acetaldehyde after 30 minutes in vitro.
Zbiotics has done rigorous in vivo testing in-house before bringing B. subtilis ZB183™ to the market. In an in-house blinded study, participants were given 4 vials of probiotic. Participants did not know which two were placebo, the unedited bacteria strain, or which contained the B. subtilis ZB183™strain, which can break down acetaldehyde. Participants were sent out for separate nights to drink the exact same amount of alcohol, eat the same foods and then rate their pain on a scale from 0 to 4 across 11 common hangover symptoms. The results showed a statistically significant 40% decrease in symptom severity for those participants which had B. subtilis ZB183™. These studies are not shared publicly because they are not IRB approved FDA clinical trials. For a consumer product, it is important that the customer can perceive the benefit and these in-house studies demonstrated that perceived benefit. Additionally, ZBiotics customers rate the product highly with a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 68.
Zbiotics is a platform-technology company which can build multiple products across a variety of health issues and indications. Their proprietary bioengineering achieves pharmaceutical-grade effectiveness, has high adaptability, is unique and is patentable.
Their strategy to launch in the consumer market and bring the world’s first genetically engineered probiotic to the market was a clever one. A consumer launch as a food product needed 10-50x lower investment and less than 3 years to market launch. This strategy was and still is successful, resulting in rapid growth and generating $10M in annual revenue only 2 years after launch. Zbiotics is celebrated by users with extremely positive customer feedback and tangible benefits.
ZBiotics was granted the patent for their second product for gut health earlier this year. They plan to launch the second product in late 2023.
Relation to Longevity
ZBiotics products keep healthy people healthy, by reducing the downside effects of consumer habits, such as drinking alcohol or eating a sugary diet, which can benefit overall health and wellness. In addition, Zbiotics technology could be applied to deliver enzymatic interventions with the potential to extend healthy years.
- Breaking down acetaldehyde
Acetaldehyde is the first metabolite in alcohol metabolism and has been documented to be toxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic in animal experiments. Faster breakdown of acetaldehyde will lead to faster removal from the body which may reduce the risk of diseases associated with aging, such as cancer and heart disease.
- Reducing inflammation
The second product improves gut health. By reducing inflammation, this will lead to better metabolic health. Product is in stealth until launch and further details must be kept confidential.
- Technology as an enzyme delivery system
Zbiotics is a platform technology to deliver enzymes to the gut. This is very relevant as a novel delivery mechanism and has the potential to target a variety of problems and indications.
Plan & IP Roadmap
The Zbiotics team has already been granted 2 patents for their first and second product which builds confidence that future products will be granted patents as well. Next, they plan to kick-start R&D to create an exercise recovery probiotic and a sleep/mood probiotic. Future R&D will result in 1 patent per product. Their technology could also offer licencing opportunities for more products by other companies.
The team is strong and came recommended to VitaDAO from contributing members.
CEO & Co-Founder, Zack Abbott has a PhD in microbiology & immunology from U. Michigan. His PhD work was in microbial genetics and clinical trial design.
COO & Co-Founder, Stephen Lamb has a JD/MBA from Penn Law/Wharton. He has worked in food distribution, market entry, supply chain and regulatory law.
R&D is led by VP of R&D, John. W.K. Oliver, with a PhD in chemistry and biotechnology from U.C. David and a Post-doc from Harvard.
The team also includes people in charge marketing, supply chain, and food safety and quality.
Seeking $100,000 from VitaDAO
Goals with current fundraise of ~$1M:
- Launch Product 1 on Amazon
- Expand to Canada for first international sale of an engineered probiotic
- Check regulatory boxes for Product #2 and launch
$1M is already committed, but they are making room for value-adding investors.
ZBiotics is already generating a $10M annual run rate (ARR) and a healthy gross margin with a consumer product and more to come: it would be the first revenue-generating company in the VitaDAO portfolio.
They have a unique pharmaceutical technology to enzyme drug delivery with proven capabilities, which could prove valuable for longevity-relevant interventions
Impressive customer lifetime values (LTVs). The early adopters are still buying, and the recent customers are performing better than the early adopters.
After taking Zbiotics anti-hangover product, people may feel encouraged to drink more, with all its implications, such as drunk driving, aggressions, long-term health consequences
This funding round focuses on the commercial development of Zbiotics anti-hangover product, which is recreational and unrelated to longevity: investing could have a detrimental effect on VitaDAO’s reputation
There are no clinical or in-vivo efficacy data for Zbiotics anti-hangover product, although customer feedback is very positive
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