Singapore-based TurtleTree has partnered with US-based Solar Biotech to scale up manufacturing of its cell-based milk ingredients so as to speed the entry of this innovative milk product to the market.
To create cell-based milk, mammary cells taken from animals or humans are immersed in a lactation solution. The cells then convert the lactation solution into milk mimicking the mammals body.
As TurtleTree foresees regulatory and scalability hurdles in producing the cell-based milk, it is now focusing on unlocking access to the key nutrients found in human milk. This can be used to enhance infant and elderly nutrition, as well as to nourish athletes. To scale up production of these key ingredients, a process known as precision fermentation is used. Microbes such as yeast and fungi are cultivated in fermentation tanks, where they act as cell factories to produce the required proteins. These proteins include lactoferrin, which has various functions ranging from the antimicrobial to immune regulation; alpha-lactalbumin, an essential component of breast milk that is high in amino acids; and caseins, which are necessary for building muscle.
Precision fermentation can allow production to be carried out on a commercially viable scale to quickly reduce the cost of novel food production, while making the end products affordable to consumers. The same technique is employed by Impossible Foods to develop its plant-based meat products.
For a start, TurtleTree will focus on producing its high-value individual ingredients such as lactoferrin, which currently has a high market price. Eventually, price of lactoferrin will go down once it scale up its production, and this can be achieved via its partnership with Solar Biotech. TurtleTree will also need to produce samples for product development and regulatory approval.
TurtleTree admits that its end-product, full composition milk, is still some time away from commercialisation, but the partnership is part of the process.