Biomilq brings cell-cultured human milk - food tech news in Asia

North Carolina-based startup, Biomilq, enclosed an A round of financing of USD 21 million in October of 2021. The investment was led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Denmark-based Novo Holdings

The company takes cells from human mammary glands and feeds them with nutrients and vitamins that are similar to those found in a mother’s blood to secrete a milk product. The company stressed that the milk product is not bio-identical to breastmilk but is significantly closer than any infant formula currently on the market.  

Biomilq is not the only company that strives to find a breastmilk equivalent. Before we continue with more examples, let’s describe the nutritional background behind breastmilk.

Human milk consists of 1% protein, 4% lipid, minerals, and many vitamins. Compared to cow milk, human milk contains less protein, but some minor proteins (the proteins present at the surface of fat globules and enzymes) are more abundant in human milk; here one can find minor proteins such as lysozyme and lactoferrin.  

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for babies up to 6 months old, starting already in the first hour after birth. Despite the recommendations of the WHO, the exclusive breastfeeding rate remains quite low in low-income and middle-income countries. Only 37% of infants younger than 6 months are exclusively breastfed.  

The cell-cultured human milk of Biomilq is not designed as a replacement for breastfeeding but offers a better option than soy or cow milk-based formulas. 

Let’s look at more examples.

Since 2013, US-based 108 Labs has worked on mammary cells by developing the first infant formula, biosimilar to mother’s milk with secretory antibodies. In 2021, the company announced the discovery of novel secretory antibody biosynthesis in the development of Colostrupedics whole-human infant formula.  

Singapore-based Turtle Tree has also developed a process of culturing human mammary cells to produce breastmilk with similar properties and composition to mother’s milk. 

New York-headquartered Helaina uses precision fermentation to recreate immune-equivalent proteins previously only available in breast milk. 

Israeli startup, Biomilk, develops technology to produce cultured cow milk and breast milk and is now in the process of producing a lab-made replica of breast milk; the product will include complex carbohydrates found in human milk that support the development of the immune system of infants. 

Companies are working hard on innovations to replicate breast milk; the only question is – will consumers accept it? 

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