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Biotech breakthrough to transform infant formula sector [Interview]

Article-Biotech breakthrough to transform infant formula sector [Interview]

© AdobeStock/THINK b Biotech breakthrough to transform infant formula sector
Cutting-edge innovation is key to tackling some of the most pressing nutritional, environmental and societal issues. BIOMILQ CEO and co-founder Michelle Egger discusses her company’s vision of transforming the infant formula market by leveraging next-generation synthetic biology.

For BIOMILQ CEO and co-founder Michelle Egger, the creation of a healthy planet begins with infant feeding. Every child should have the best nutritional start in life possible.

BIOMILQ was founded on the belief that human milk, as it has been evolutionarily designed, is superior to infant nutrition products that exist today,” she explains. “We saw an opportunity to bring human nutrients to the market, through novel biotechnology, to support families where exclusive breastfeeding was challenging.

This foundational concept began a journey to create alternative infant feeding options that bridge the nutritional gap between breast milk and traditional formula. While infant formula provides all of the macronutrients that an infant needs, many are dairy- or soy-based — two common childhood allergies.

Addressing nutritional, environmental, and societal concerns

Egger recognised a lack of innovation in this space, a need to address the issue of dairy carbon emissions, and a need to tackle societal concerns. “We’re at the intersection of multiple subjects of concern: women’s health, infant nutrition, and sustainability,” says Egger.

Some 84 % of moms transition to dairy-based infant formula before the recommended six-month exclusive feeding period, and this is often a choice of necessity. From struggles with latching, milk supply, lack of support, to policy issues like lack of paid parental leave and access to educational and health care resources — breastfeeding is not easy.

Alongside this, Egger saw a lack of alternative infant feeding options. “Studies have shown that conventional formulas fall short of providing the full constellation of components that make breast milk so extraordinary,” she says. This is where BIOMILQ comes in.

Applying technology to bridge nutritional gaps

BIOMILQ’s application of cutting-edge technology is based on the company’s thorough understanding of breast milk components, and application of advanced synthetic biological techniques.

BIOMILQ’s biotechnology platform cultures human mammary cells to produce cell-cultured human milk in a sustainable and ethical manner. By providing improved alternatives to bovine-based formula, the aim is to create better environmental outcomes, nutritional outcomes, and societal outcomes for parents and babies today.

Our product will neither be dairy or soy based, cutting down on allergen exposure while providing another choice to the infant feeding market,” says Egger. “Our product’s nutritional profile will differentiate from infant formula greatly, with much of the nutrition and characteristics of human breast milk - something that is currently lacking in the alternative infant feeding space.

Egger sees huge market potential for the product. A wide variety of parents, including adoptive parents, parents who have conceived via surrogacy, gay parents, and women who have had mastectomies will find it easier to provide their infants with the nutrition of breastmilk.

‘Nature enhanced by science’ is a trend felt by many, especially in the food industry,” says Egger. “At the end of the day, parents want their children to be healthy and happy.

What we are doing could create new opportunities across the nutrition landscape,” she says.