From left: Doctors Astrid Holzer, Mathieu Castex (president, Lallemand), Alejandro Cabezas-Cruz, and Vaidas Palinauskas (chief executive, microXpace).

Immunity stimulator may protect against spectrum of diseases

French companies moving quickly to develop products that leave fish 'ready to fight'


Probiotics producer Lallemand Animal Nutrition and microbial tech start-up MicroXpace are moving into the development phase for products that they say will make farmed fish and poultry more resilient to parasitic infections.

The French companies joined forces a year ago to further expand the potential of technology that utilises alpha-Gal (a sugar structure found in glycoproteins and glycolipids from all mammals except primates, including humans) as an oral vaccine against a variety of pathogens, and have achieved proof of concept.

It works like this: gut beneficial bacteria have evolved for millions of years within their vertebrate hosts such as fish, birds and humans, and bacteria in the gut microbiota express the glycan alpha-Gal, inducing the production of natural anti-alpha-Gal antibodies. This happens only in animal groups that do not produce alpha-Gal themselves such as fish, birds, and humans.

A group of researchers (some of them co-founders of microXpace) discovered that natural anti-alpha-Gal antibodies can kill major pathogens, including parasites, that affect fish, birds, and humans alike. They also learned to modulate the natural immune response to alpha-Gal and put the animal in a “ready-to-fight” state protecting it against several pathogens simultaneously.

Lallemand said the stimulation of alpha-Gal immunity by microbiota provides protection against a broad range of disease agents that express the alpha-Gal glycan on their surface (e.g., Plasmodium sp., Mycobacterium sp., Borrelia sp., Trypanosoma sp. and more).

Watch the video to hear MicroXpace chief scientific officer and co-founder Dr Alejandro Cabezas-Cruz explain the concept behind the stimulation of alpha-Gal immunity as a vaccine against a variety of pathogens that have alpha-Gal attached to them.

The technology was patented by microXpace in 2021 in collaboration with French state research institute INRAE and offers new possibilities for enhancing animal health, said Lallemand. In turns, it helps animals become more resilient towards infectious diseases present in aquaculture and poultry production worldwide.

Lallemand said the collaboration with microXpace had identified a broad range of parasite targets and tested the safety of the technology while also refining the product scope. The substantial progress made allows the collaborators to enter a product development phase which entails production upscaling and further in vivo testing under controlled laboratory as well as industrial conditions.

Real-world product

MicroXpace chief scientific officer and co-founder Dr Alejandro Cabezas-Cruz, who is also principal investigator at INRAE, said: “As a member of the group of researchers who discovered the impact of alpha-Gal immunity in fish and birds, witnessing our idea evolve into a real-world product with significant impact, supported by Lallemand’s willingness, is absolutely thrilling.”

Dr Astrid Holzer, chief aquaculture innovation officer of microXpace, said: “About 20% of the worldwide aquaculture production is lost due to infectious diseases. The industry is especially threatened by emerging parasitic diseases which are expanding due to climate change.

Broad range solution

“Both marine and freshwater commercial finfish production will strongly benefit from the species-independent, broad range solution of alpha-Gal immunity developed by the microXpace research team. Lallemand has been incredibly supportive during our joint developments and will enable efficient product development, targeted market access and product launch.”

Eric Leclercq, aquaculture R&D manager and fish application manager at Lallemand, said: “As the need to increase parasite resilience remains a top priority across farmed fish and poultry globally, exploiting for the first time this key immune mechanism raises the prospect of a substantial contribution to health, welfare and performance in the field.”