Ageria is a young start-up on a mission, a mission to extend the healthy human lifespan with yogurt. Based in Ireland, the team consists of Corey Howe from Ohio, and Andreas Stuermer, Alexander Gfrerer and David Weichselbaum from Austria. Having already won the Bank of Ireland Start-Up Award in 2015, the team are successfully working towards their full prototype and plan to launch their product i early 2017. We spoke to Corey about Ageria, how it plans to create this “miracle” yogurt and how they think consumers will react.
Tell us about Ageria. What inspired you to create life-extending yogurt?
The inspiration for our idea came from a good look at the current anti-aging industry, the increase of anti-ageing compound discovery, and the ability of yogurt to be precisely engineered as a living food.
How are you “naturally engineering” yogurt? What processes are involved?
While it would be very quick and easy to create a yogurt using any engineering techniques and create a GMO food, we knew it was important when designing our food to think about consumer acceptance. While doing this we were able to create techniques that use natural genetic modification tools to engineer our yogurt. Every organism’s genetic code is constantly in flux and has systems in place to help manage that. We are taking advantage of those natural systems to create changes to the yogurt’s DNA that could happen naturally.
What challenges did you face when starting out? Did you face any issues with GMO legislation?
One of our biggest challenges in creating a successful product will be the acceptance of a naturally engineered food. We are fortunate that there is a shift happening towards more educated consumers. With this shift we plan to teach the average consumer about biology and DNA to show them that every living thing’s genetic code is constantly changing and not set in stone. In addition, we are lucky to start our project in a time of big changes in GMO regulations. Even though there are a lot of regulatory uncertainties globally at the moment, we expect a change towards a higher acceptance of certain natural engineering methods in the population as well as in legislation. Our focus will first be on the US market, as they already have several naturally engineered products on the market.
How does the yogurt prolong the consumer’s life?
Our bacteria will produce higher amounts of a natural compound called spermidine. This compound has just recently been discovered to have incredible longevity effects in animals as well as many other health benefits. This compound works by inducing the cell’s clean up system called autophagy. Studies show that the amount of this compound in our body decreases as we age, so the yogurt bacteria will help to maintain healthy levels in the gut.
You won the Bank of Ireland Start-Up Award in 2015 and were also involved with the IndieBio accelerator programme. How have these affected your company?
Being a part of the IndieBio accelerator has been a critical process in the development of our company. During this three-month programme we were able to take our idea and develop a tangible plan to make it a reality. We have gained valuable business knowledge and scientific understanding as we have expanded our networks thanks to the programme. Over the past few months we have had the opportunity to share our mission with several amazing groups including the IndieBio demo day, European Food Venture Forum (EFVF), European Venture Summit (EVS), and Bank of Ireland Start-Up Awards (BOI), winning awards at EFVF and BOI. These events were amazing exposure for us and helped us gain credibility when talking with other companies.
When are you looking to launch the yogurt and who is your target market?
We are currently closing a funding round with plans to finish our first prototype yogurt culture within the next year while working in the UK. During this time we plan to partner with a yogurt manufacturer and finalise our route to market, we expect to be able to launch by early 2017. Our target market is the health-conscious consumer who is looking to live healthier through improved nutrition.
Do you think consumers are ready for your anti-ageing yogurt? With the market pushing towards natural, clean ingredients, how do you think people will react?
We have found a huge need for a true anti-ageing product. With the massive shift towards healthier eating and educated consumers we believe that our product meets the needs of the modern consumer. As stated previously, a challenge of our product will be the acceptance of naturally engineered yoghurt. We expect some people to be hesitant at first but we think with time there will be a growing acceptance. Our initial talks with consumers have shown that they would try a yogurt that was naturally engineered.
What are your plans for 2016?
Our plans for 2016 are to close our investment deal and set up our lab in the UK. This year will be spent developing our technology, a final prototype, and business partners. We have also been playing around with the idea of doing a crowdfunding campaign later this year to initially distribute our prototype in a yogurt starter culture to the public for at home yogurt making, but this is still in the works.
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