BIOMILQ, a “women-owned, science-led and mother-centered” startup, just raised $3.5 million in a Seed round led by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Purple Orange Ventures, Blue Horizon Ventures and entrepreneur Shazi Visram, founder of Happy Family Organics.
But what made these investors bank so much on a Durham-based startup that’s in the business of breastmilk?
Because, as a BIOMILQ statement says, “The evidence is clear: breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure healthy development in children. However, the reality is that breastfeeding, let alone exclusive breastfeeding, isn’t always possible. In fact, over 4 out of 5 moms in the US transition to dairy-based infant formula before the recommended six-month breastfeeding period ends.”
In addition to those reasons, mothers also face lowered milk production, medical complications, workplace challenges, and societal stigmas for public breastfeeding. With these obstacles, new mothers often have no choice but to opt for the convenience of standard formula to ensure the health of their babies. It’s an understandable — if unfortunate — solution.
BIOMILQ’s cultured infant nutrition not only keeps infants from drinking “nutritionally suboptimal” formula, but it’s a dairy-free alternative that also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions — methane from cows — from the environment.
“While there is no replacement for breastmilk,” said BIOMILQ co-founder and CEO Michelle Egger, “we believe we can harness the power of science, technology, and nature to deliver comprehensive and sustainable infant nutrition.”
According to BIOMILQ’s website, the company cultures mammary cells outside the body. The company then leverages cells’ ability to produce the components of breastmilk, for which there are apparently more than 2,500. The FAQ claims that BIOMILQ has produced human casein and lactose, giving them confidence that they will be able to “fully replicate the nutritional profile of breastmilk.”
Egger, a food scientist, says she and BIOMILQ co-founder Leila Strickland, a biologist, were dealing with tough times just before the funding came through, in a recent interview with Forbes magazine. Eggers said in the interview that, prior to the announcement, business challenges made things feel like BIOMILQ was “dead in the water.”
“We had gotten to the point where we said to each other, ‘we’re going to have to apply for real jobs,’” Eggers told Forbes.
Now, according to a statement, the seed funds will go toward production optimization, staff expansion, and engagement with families, pediatricians, and others in the breastfeeding community considered “stakeholders.”
“We believe parents, caregivers, and infants deserve more options in early-stage nutrition,” said Strickland, who serves as BIOMILQ’s CSO. “We’re determined to give them just that and to create a better world for future generations.”
If you’re in Durham, look BIOMILQ up — they’re hiring!