“Human milk” produced in a lab by a Bill Gates-backed company may be available in three to five years, cofounder Leila Strickland told CNN Business.
BIOMILQ is aiming to create human milk-producing cells in much the same way that some companies are producing lab-grown meat.
Strickland reportedly came up with the idea after struggling to breastfeed her first child, saying that “a lot of people are grappling with this.”
The North Carolina-based startup received a $3.5 million investment from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a fund started by Bill Gates, The Times reported in June 2020.
Breakthrough Energy’s board members include Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Virgin founder Richard Branson.
BIOMILQ’s team is working on producing artificial human milk by using human breast tissue and milk donated by local women.
These donors then get a gift card for the department store Target in return.
Strickland said that the company is still between three and five years away from taking a product to market.
First, the company needs to grow cells at a larger scale and lower cost than they are currently doing.
BIOMILQ also needs to gain regulatory approval showing that the product is safe for infants.
Strickland was originally a cell biologist and came up with the idea after being inspired by lab-grown meat products.
She says that the artificial milk will provide a nutrient profile closer to that of human milk, compared to baby formula based on cow milk.
Breast feeding exclusively is recommended for the first six months after birth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and then breast-feeding in combination with solid foods until the age of one.
Baby formula does not provide the same immunity-boosting elements of breast milk that only the human body can provide, according to the Mayo Clinic, which also said that breast milk is easier to digest.
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