Aquaculture — or fish farming — is responsible for half the world’s seafood productivity and worth as much as $200bn globally and €149m in Ireland.
Approximately 5% of the world’s fish stock is lost to infectious disease at a cost of more than $10bn annually.
MicroSynbiotiX, headquartered in Cork City, has developed an oral vaccine hidden within microalgae which fish eat that aims to reduce those losses to as close to zero as possible.
“What we do is we lock the vaccine inside of the microalgae. The technology is based on feeding the vaccine locked in the microalgae to the fish and the natural digestion process of the fish unlocks the vaccine and triggers an immune response,” company co-founder Antonio Lamb said.
“The way the industry does disease management now for most aquaculture farms is that they administer a pretty excessive use of antibiotics which end up in the food and ultimately ends up in the diets of people that eat the fish but also gets expelled as effluents into the environment so the technology would allow people to immunise farm-raised seafood sustainably and would basically allow an individual to vaccinate against different diseases that wipe-out farms without having to use harmful antibiotics or antimicrobial,” Mr Lamb added.
Other companies use vaccines rather than antibiotics to treat fish but generally do so by injecting the vaccine, a technique Mr Lamb says is more costly given the manufacturing and labour costs involved.
He described MicroSynbiotiX’s oral technology as “the most ideal” method of vaccination.
MicroSynbiotiX was founded by Mr Lamb, originally from Sweden, along with Simon Porphy Jegathese from India and native New Yorker, Sebastian Cocioba.
Having participated in the IndieBio biotech accelerator in Cork, the firm has established its headquarters in the city, while it also has lab space in California and New York.
Its workload will now be split into two strands with one based in Ireland and the other in the US.
“We would like to do the initial strain development in the US, since we have several state-of-the-art laboratory facilities there already and then continue that research in microalgal industrial scale-up through an Irish university gateway [in Ireland]. We would then like to set up the industrial manufacturing and export of the product from Ireland,” Mr Lamb said.