Fish-free omega-3 supplement created from bacteria

A new generation omega-3 supplement has been commercialised by a research affiliate in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the Sydney Knowledge Hub to address the increasing demand for omega-3s amid diminishing supply from fish stocks.

Dr De Cerqueira is an honorary researcher in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Image: Dr Gustavo De Cerqueira

An Australian omega-3 supplement made from environmental bacteria is being developed by a University of Sydney research affiliate in a collaboration between academia and industry, creating a sustainable source of functional omega-3s that alleviates the impact of overfishing.

Omega-3s are a popular supplement with a four percent market growth annually. They consist of fatty acids called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Most often derived from cod, omega-3 supplements are recommended to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis.

The growing demand for omega-3s is currently fulfilled by increased fishing activities, resulting in over 100 million tonnes of fish caught for this purpose per annum globally.

Unlike most other omega-3 supplements on the market, BiomeMega does not derive its fatty acids from fish. Instead, it uses advanced precision fermentation to elaborate omega-3 oils composed of wild bacterial extracts, some of which were discovered in Australian soil and waters before laboratory domestication.

BiomeMega CEO Dr Gustavo De Cerqueira, who is conducting research for the supplement while a resident member at the Sydney Knowledge Hub said: “While demand for omega-3 supplements is ever-increasing, fish are disappearing from our oceans.”

“While oily fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, so too are marine and soil bacteria, however generating extracts containing these acids has long been a major goal,” Dr De Cerqueira said.

Dr De Cerqueira in the lab. Image: Dr Gustavo De Cerqueira

“Our unique process effectively helps to unlock previously inaccessible omega-3s from lactic acid bacteria using an innovative, precision-based approach to deliver the supplement to where omega-3 is needed in the human body, such as specific organs.”

BiomeMega Chairman Mr Paul Montgomery said: “We’re developing new ways of obtaining truly functional ingredients, which we hope will alleviate pressure on our vital marine ecosystems and fish stocks.”

“So far, we have generated substantial results in collaboration with academia and industry, and we have obtained key patents and trademarks that include animal models, in vitro realistic tests, and strong bioinformatic analyses (the analysis of biological data), that will next support our vision of using AI to produce even more robust bacterial omega-3s.”

The researchers say that verifying their product’s Australian provenance will also be possible by using traceable compounds – something increasingly demanded by consumers.

The team is presently focused on a capital raise to test the supplement as a nutraceutical and also a therapeutic, having recently recruited a Chief Commercial Officer from Copenhagen, Mr Mario Maia to assist in raising funds. BiomeMega will continue to conduct research with the University of Sydney and other academic partners, with hopes to pass regulatory requirements and launch a market-ready product in the next four years.


The authors declare no conflict of interest.

/University Release. View in full here.