[INTERVIEW] BIOMIN Founder Reflects Upon Past and Future of Mycotoxin Management as Mycofix Turns 25

Dr. Erich Erber Founder & President BIOMIN

On the occasion of the brand’s 25th anniversary, Feedinfo News Service turned to BIOMIN's founder, Dr. Erich Erber - who is largely credited with creating the product category itself - to discuss the past and future of mycotoxin risk management.

[Feedinfo News Service] Dr. Erber, can you provide us with a summary of Mycofix's 25 year history?

[Erich Erber] The story actually began 28 years ago when we bought a company called Interpremix from Dr Halama. Dr Halama had developed a first of its kind product, Antitox Plus, which was a binder and a polymer and had good efficacy against aflatoxins. In order to broaden the activity against fusarium toxins, BIOMIN made a research agreement with the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna with Prof Leibetseder in 1988. Thanks to those R&D efforts, we developed the first Mycofix®  product launched in 1991. Mycofix® was the first product to combat mycotoxins based on the concept of biotransformation. From there, we’ve provided customers with increasingly sophisticated tools to combat mycotoxins ever since.

Over the years, further development of Mycofix® saw the mycotoxin deactivation strategies progress from binders (bentonite 1m558 binds aflatoxins) to micro-organisms (BIOMIN BBSH 797 counteracts deoxynivalenol, and yeast strain BIOMIN® MTV detoxifies zearalenone and ochratoxin A) to purified enzymes that biotransform mycotoxins into non-toxic compounds (e.g. FUMzyme® degrades fumonisins). With FUMzyme®, BIOMIN has launched the fifth generation of continuous improvement of efficacy and activity.

With ongoing R&D, Mycofix® now addresses a much broader range of mycotoxins than ever. Clients have a more powerful, targeted tool at their disposal, while the annual BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey started in 2004 provides them with a worldwide view on mycotoxin contamination levels. It uses the most advanced detection methods and covers the most number of samples of any survey of its kind. In addition, our recent investment in the most advanced detection methods using LC-MS/MS technology (Spectrum 380®) that can detect 380+ mycotoxins, masked mycotoxins and other metabolites, provides clients with the clearest possible picture of mycotoxin contamination in their feed samples. Each of these milestones are unmatched in the industry.

[Feedinfo News Service] Mycofix® 5.0 was launched in April 2015. How widely adopted is the product in the global market today?

[Erich Erber] The response was immediately positive. After a progressive rollout across regions, Mycofix® is now available globally. Our existing customers in over 100 countries were already satisfied with the existing Mycofix® product line, and they’ve been keen to seize the advantages that the fifth generation offers, namely 1) effectiveness against an even broader spectrum of mycotoxins, 2) proven safety and effectiveness backed by three EU authorizations for mycotoxin deactivation, 3) enhanced bioprotection to support the liver, immune system and intestinal barrier function, 4) protection against endotoxins (lipopolysaccharides) that weaken animals’ immune systems, and 5) a fully revamped formulation that generates meaningful return on investment for clients.

Many of the largest and most sophisticated livestock and aquaculture producers are early adopters that have already made the switch to Mycofix® 5.0, and we expect many more to follow. Mycofix® and FUMzyme® are the first mycotoxin deactivating feed additives that have received a positive opinion from EFSA, which proves that BIOMIN is at the forefront of mycotoxin risk management for the feed industry worldwide.

[Feedinfo News Service] Can you provide us with a breakdown of how Mycofix® 5.0 works?

[Erich Erber] Mycofix® uses three modes of action – biotransformation, adsorption and bioprotection – to deliver absolute protection against mycotoxins. Biotransformation essentially changes their structure. A unique combination of patented specific enzymes and microbial components converts mycotoxins into non-toxic and environmentally safe metabolites. This mode of action targets fumonisins, trichothecenes, zearalenone and ochratoxin A. For adsorption, a synergistic blend of minerals bind adsorbable mycotoxins such as aflatoxins and ergot alkaloids. Bioprotection involves an innovative mix of natural ingredients that provides immune support and counters toxic side effects caused by mycotoxins. Mycotoxins impair performance, health status or immune function. Because mycotoxins can weaken an animal’s natural defenses, they become more susceptible to issues such as pathogens or dysbiosis. The application of Mycofix® can, in many cases if mycotoxins are present, indirectly reduce health treatment costs as well.

[Feedinfo News Service] Mycofix® 5.0 uses biotransformation to convert a variety of different mycotoxins into non-toxic metabolites. Why does BIOMIN argue that biotransformation is the future of mycotoxin risk management?

[Erich Erber] Biotransformation is the future of mycotoxin risk management for a number of reasons.

First, biotransformation using enzymes is the most specific method to counter mycotoxins—meaning that it detoxifies them and, importantly, does nothing else. This is a big advantage over low quality binders that bind other things such as nutrients as well—thereby lowering feed quality. Second, it’s irreversible: when you turn a mycotoxin into a non-toxic compound, it stays that way.

Third, biotransformation addresses the root cause of health and performance issues –mycotoxins– where other products simply cover it up as they do not deactivate the mycotoxins. This is crucial, for example in dairy, when you’re looking at the carryover of aflatoxin M1 into milk. Even when the effect on the performance of the animal is not obvious anymore, aflatoxin M1 is still carried over into milk. Deactivation of aflatoxin prevents the carry over. Fourth, mycotoxin-deactivating enzymes don’t take up much space, which is helpful in feed formulation so there is more room for other valuable ingredients.

Fifth, it’s the only way to tackle issues such as severe mycotoxin contamination levels or a cocktail of different mycotoxins that can pose problems even at relatively low levels due to their synergistic effects in animals. And finally, enzymes have a clearly defined mechanism of mycotoxin deactivation that –using biomarkers– can be shown to be non-toxic, safe and effective.

[Feedinfo News Service] According to you why is BIOMIN seemingly the only company in the market offering commercial mycotoxin biotransformation solutions? How costly and laborious is this process?

[Erich Erber] Our commitment to scientific research and cutting-edge R&D stretches back nearly three decades. In that time, we’ve purposefully built up a considerable in-house research arm, the BIOMIN Research Center, with more than 110 scientists and researchers. Research teams are specialized in microbiology, molecular biology, cell biology, analytics, fermentation, bioactive ingredient formulation, quality control and an extra team for feeding trials with a focus on biomarker development.

We stay at the forefront of scientific knowledge through partnerships with more than 200 respected laboratories, academic and research institutions worldwide—including the leading academic experts on mycotoxins. We commit considerable amounts to R&D each year. While each innovation takes years to go from discovery to field application, we have always been fervently committed to delivering the most effective, cutting-edge products to customers. It is part of our value proposition, the 3 S’s, enshrined across ERBER GROUP, of which BIOMIN is a part. Science. Service. Speed. It’s our continued ability to deliver the best products and best services ahead of the pack that puts us ahead of the competition.

[Feedinfo News Service] In November 2013, BIOMIN's Mycofix® Secure and BIOMIN® BBSH 797 became the first-ever products authorized by the European Union as substances with proven mycotoxin counteracting properties. FUMzyme followed in 2014. How have sales of these products fared since?

[Erich Erber] The EU authorization is important, because it recognizes the proven safety and efficacy of these components of Mycofix®. For many in the agriculture sector globally, not just in Europe, EU authorization is a benchmark of quality. Knowing that the feed additive you put into the feed and food chain really works is reassuring to our clients. Since the first EU authorization in 2013, sales of Mycofix® have increased substantially worldwide, and we continue to see strong demand around the globe.

[Feedinfo News Service] Mycofix® is seen to overshadow some of BIOMIN's other product lines. Is this a problem?

[Erich Erber] It’s true that we’re known for mycotoxin deactivation, and that leading reputation is a strength of BIOMIN, without a doubt. Mycotoxin risk management constitutes the company’s first pillar. It’s amazing to think that some customers have been using Mycofix® for 25 years. Clients in more than 100 countries recognize Mycofix® as the most effective and innovative product of its kind. It speaks to longstanding client relationships built on science, service and speed.

The same skilled teams behind the success of Mycofix® have worked diligently to deliver a suite of gut performance products, including phytogenics, microbials and enhanced acidifiers. Now more than ever, clients are looking for the right tools to support gut health, reduce antibiotic use, effectively control pathogens and improve feed efficiency. That’s exactly where our gut performance range –what we call our second pillar– can deliver real solutions. Many of our Mycofix® clients also purchase Digestarom®, our phytogenic feed additive that delivers better feed conversion.

[Feedinfo News Service] How do you view the future of mycotoxin risk management during the next 25 years?

[Erich Erber] Better technology and big data will be needed, since climate change promises to bring more extreme weather patterns which make harvest predictions more difficult than today. Aflatoxins –more commonly found in tropical zones– have already crept into temperate regions in recent years. So the mycotoxin challenges will also change. As science advances, we will have a better understanding of ‘emerging’ mycotoxins: those that have been identified but whose effects are not yet fully known. We already have a project underway to determine the toxicity of emerging mycotoxins in vitro in order to identify which may cause problems in livestock.

Eventually, looking far enough down the road we will see ‘the end of binders.’ By that I mean that enzymatic biotransformation will be the method of choice for the livestock industry. On-site tests will be much more powerful and give fast results for many mycotoxins. Customers will buy the mycotoxin-deactivating enzymes that they need, and based on the testing results they will easily be able to customize their product on the field to meet their specific situation. It will mean having the most effective solution when it’s needed, every time.

[Feedinfo News Service] Is Mycofix® 6.0 in the works?

[Erich Erber] The fifth generation of Mycofix® is based on nearly 30 years of continuous research and development work. Each generation brings with it several advantages for our loyal customers across the globe. It is important to me that we firmly pursue our commitment to science and innovation in the service of customers. We have a number of important initiatives underway—though much of that work is not something that I can share at this time. But yes, work on the sixth generation is already in full swing and there will be a Mycofix® 6.0 at some point in the future.

This interview originally appeared on www.feedinfo.com.