Ayana Bio, a plant cell technology company making sustainable bioactives for consumer products, pledged $3 million to accelerate the production of cacao bioactives through cellular cultivation. Cacao contains biologically active compounds that support healthy digestion, cardiovascular health, cognition and immunity while reducing risk of inflammation and diabetes. However, traditional harvesting methods are expensive, unsustainable and have been linked to numerous supply chain challenges, including child labor, farmer poverty, pests, climate change and deforestation.

Ayana Bio will use this fund to expedite the commercialization of cacao wellness ingredients and prioritize research to link the genetic profiles of different cacao varieties with certain health benefits and usage applications to expand partnerships with CPG companies. Ayana Bio is producing the cacao using its proprietary plant cell cultivation technology, a means to produce plant materials without growing plants in the ground. Instead, Ayana Bio's technology grows cacao biomass from optimized cell lines in a stainless-steel cultivation system akin to beer fermentation, yielding the identical molecular mixtures found in nature—or even higher concentrations of beneficial bioactives.

Ayana Bio's plant cell cultivation technology offers an alternative production method that avoids current cacao harvesting challenges, while sustainably and inexpensively producing cacao bioactives to use as ingredients in food, beverage and health and wellness products. These bioactives will be increasingly important as research shows a daily recommendation of flavan-3-ols, found in cacao, can reduce risk associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Cacao will be among the first of many bioactive products in Ayana Bio's pipeline, which includes ingredients in berries, ginseng, echinacea, ginger and other high-value botanicals. Ayana Bio's cacao bioactives plan to be ready for commercialization by late 2024.

To deepen its R&D and commercialization efforts, Ayana Bio has appointed Dr. Weslee Glenn as its head of platform development. Before joining Ayana Bio, Glenn was the director of metabolic engineering at Provivi, and earned his PhD and Postdoctoral at MIT and Caltech, respectively. Ayana Bio has also hired Troy Rhonemus as its head of commercial operations. Previously Troy held various positions at Pendulum Therapeutics, Bolt Threads, ChromaDex, and Cargill. In 2022, Ayana Bio also appointed ChromaDex founder and longtime CEO Frank Jaksch as its first chief executive officer.