TurtleTree, a startup developing human breastmilk using cellular agriculture technology, has announced that its first commercially available product will be lactoferrin, a protein found in both animal and cow milk.
Lactoferrin has long been viewed as a critical protein to both fight infection and to aid in brain development of young children, as well as a supplement to help women fight iron deficiencies, has more recently gained traction for its ability to help fight against COVID-19 infection.
While today’s supplement industry uses cow-derived lactoferrin, human breastmilk has 5-7 times the concentration. TurtleTree saw an opportunity.
“We have been able to identify early commercial ingredient targets due to our frequent conversations with prominent performance nutrition and infant formula companies,” said Max Rye, Chief Strategist of TurtleTree. “We’ve since seen tremendous interest from global partners in our portfolio of human and bovine milk products. It is going to be an exciting year for us.”
TurtleTree focus on lactoferrin as it’s first product for scaled commercial production doesn’t mean it’s giving up on creating fully realized cell-based breastmilk. The company is still working on its technology that grows mammary gland cells in a lab which actually lactate milk, but recognizes it could take a few years before cell-based milk can scale and has full regulatory approval.
The ability to create human breastmilk in the lab may sound kind of scary at first, but it has the potential to do a lot of good. Cultured breastmilk doesn’t rely on animal-based dairy like other infant formulas, so it could have an environmental benefit. And cultured breastmilk could also help mothers who for biological, economic or societal reasons, can’t breastfeed their babies as much as they’d like.