This project plans to investigate the potential of developing antimicrobial peptides for addition to animal feed for production purposes. Current practices commonly use antimicrobials that are used therapeutically with humans as additives to animal feed, which can result in antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. The antimicrobial peptides investigated in this project show signs of reducing bacterial counts in poultry, but are not used for medical purposes. Antimicrobial peptides will be produced for this project using filamentous fungal fermentation.

Antibiotics have been used as additives in animal food as an effort to help reduce bacterial levels in poultry and potentially reduce food-borne illness in humans consuming poultry. New guidance published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has restricted administration of antibiotics in animal feed as it has been linked to increasing strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The development of antimicrobial peptides using filamentous fungal fermentation may be an alternative solution to this concern. If successfully developed these antimicrobial peptides will assist in reducing bacterial levels in poultry to reduce food-borne illnesses while not generating antibiotic-resistant strains.

Project Report

During the I-Corp Program (Fall 2012 cohort) our team carried out an extensive customer discovery effort. As part of this process, the team interviewed over 80 people - potential stake holders in our proposed, new product. Information from these interactions was pivotal in helping us define our business model and make the decision to move forward with this project. As a strategic management template, we used the "Business Model Canvas." This tool helped us to document the development of our business model by providing a visual summary of nine key elements. In the center, and perhaps most important to the business, are our Value Propositions. These address some of the most fundamental questions related to business - "which customer problems are we helping to solve? Which needs are we satisfying? What value do we deliver to the customer? Boxes to the right of the Value Propositions are customer related questions: Who are they? (Customer Segments), What is our relationship with them? (Customer Relationships) and how do we reach them? (Channels). Boxes to the left of the Value Propositions deal with our partners: Who are they? (Key Partners), What do they do for or with us? (Key Activities) and how to we interact with them? (Key Resources). Finally, topics at the bottom of the canvas (Cost Structure & Revenue Streams) address the question of how the business will make a profit. During the 8 weeks of the I-Corps program, we continually updated the canvas as we learned more from our customer interviews. At the end of the 8 weeks, based on our final business canvas, we made a "go" decision to formally start a new company (MycoInnovation, LLC) which is now an affiliate company at the bwtech@UMBC Life Sciences Incubator. Activity on this grant continued after formation of our company as we continued the customer discovery process. This led to additional revelations that guided our startup activity. Activity on this award yielded crucial information which played an important role in applications to the NSF for an STTR Award ($225k; 7/1/13, NSF# 1321523 made to MycoInnovation, LLC) and a State of Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII) Award ($100k; Awarded 4/13/14).

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP)
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Program Officer
Rathindra DasGupta
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University of Maryland Baltimore County
United States
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