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Biomilq, the female-founded biotech developing lab-grown breastmilk, has received backing from Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures in its latest Series A financing. The round, co-led by Breakthrough and Danish investors Novo Holdings, will help Biomilq accelerate its plan to launch cell-cultured human breastmilk and disrupt the multibillion dollar infant milk formula industry within the next four years.
Biomilq has announced on Wednesday (October 20) the closing of its Series A funding round with $21 million. The North Carolina-based biotech attracted funding from existing investor Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the sustainable VC firm founded by Bill Gates, and Danish life science investor Novo Holdings.
Other participating investors included Blue Horizon, Spero Ventures, Digitalis Ventures, Alexandria and Gaingels. Green Generation Fund, Europe’s first all-female-led fund, also backed Biomilq’s oversubscribed Series A.
Bringing cell-cultured human breastmilk to market
Biomilq says that proceeds from the round will accelerate its plans to bring its flagship product, cell-cultured human breast milk, to market. Earlier this year, the company announced that it had successfully farmed human breast milk outside the body.
The biotech uses proprietary technology, based on cellular agriculture, to create an alternative feeding option for infants—one that is not only more sustainable by virtue of eliminating the need to rely on conventional dairy milk, but also provides the optimal nutrition in real human breastmilk.
Rather than producing just a “handful of components” within human milk, Biomilq is focused on creating a “whole milk product that maintains the integrity of it’s incredible evolutionary origin.” That includes the anti-inflammatory polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) known to play a role in promoting healthy development in babies.
The product, which Biomilq envisions will be available to mothers in the same convenient format as formula, means mothers and babies will be able to access a healthier and more sustainable alternative, especially for those in exceptional circumstances such as foster care, or mothers who are unable to breastfeed. Biomilq was co-founded by CSO Dr. Leila Strickland, a cell biologist who envisioned a cell-ag solution for infant nutrition after struggling to breastfeed her own children, and CEO Michelle Egger.
Armed with fresh capital, the company, which now boasts a team of 20 members, believes it could “enable full commercialisation” of its cell-cultured human breastmilk “over the next four years.”
‘We’re excited about the value beyond capital’
Commenting on the oversubscribed financing, Egger shared that the team is “thrilled” but underscored that it was “more excited about the value beyond capital being added from our new investors.”
“Each partner brings technical expertise, passion for human and planetary health, and belief in female-founded ventures,” the co-founder and CEO continued, highlighting the participation of Green Generation, the first all-female-led fund in Europe. “[It] exemplifies that female-founded rounds can compete with the heavy hitters of the [venture capital] world.”
“Michelle and I founded BIOMILQ on clear beliefs,” added Dr. Strickland, mentioning that Biomilq selected its investment partners based on shared core values and commitment to diversity and positive impact. “Thoughtful planning and relationship building was required to find a commonality of mission among our partners.”
One of the criteria that the startup laid out was that at minimum, 10% of investors’ portfolios have female or diverse founders.
Aside from Biomilq, only a handful of other startups are focused on cell-culturing milk and disrupting the unsustainable dairy industry’s hold on the $100 billion-plus infant formula market. One of them is Singapore-based TurtleTree Labs, which is creating both lab-grown cow’s milk and human milk for babies and is planning to launch human lactoferrin as its first cell-based commercial product.
Canadian startup Better Milk is solely focused on making cow’s milk directly from mammary cells, while food giant Nestlé has indicated its interest in the space, recently posting a job listing for a specialist in mammary gland development and lactation biology.
All images courtesy of Biomilq, unless otherwise credited.