by Nick Kolyohin
JERUSALEM, July 23 (Xinhua) -- Israeli food-tech company BioMilk says it is developing the first-ever milk and dairy products secreted using cultured mammalian cells in a lab.
Nathaniel Benchemhoun, BioMilk's vice president of business development, told Xinhua that the "dairy industry is forecasted to grow to over 1 trillion U.S. dollars a year in 2024" and it can't continue to operate in the same way.
He said that BioMilk strives to team up with leading traditional dairy companies around the globe to market a new kind of future milk that will be much more environmentally friendly.
BioMilk, which has been trading on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange since February 2021, signed on Monday a strategic investment term sheet with Coca-Cola Israel (The Central Bottling Company).
Yoram Sagy, president of The Central Bottling Company, said that both companies will work together on the development and piloting of cultured milk products.
Nurit Argov-Argaman, co-founder and chief scientist of BioMilk, said the company endeavors to grow in bioreactors all the essential ingredients of real milk. "The milk is almost similar to traditional milk and not similar because real milk consists of over 2,000 components."
Through the evolution of mammals, milk has developed to produce unique properties, constituencies, bioactivities that are not found elsewhere in our diets, not in plant or animal-derived sources.
"These components are usually found in very low concentration in milk, they are micro constituents of milk, but we can use our process of culturing cells in the lab to potentially provide large quantities of these materials," Argov-Argaman said.
It will be possible to produce any kind of milk by manipulating cultured cells to secrete desired components in specific ratios, following the wishes and demands of manufacturers and customers, she added.
It would be possible to develop hypoallergenic milk, skimmed milk, low-fat milk, lactose-free milk, protein-enriched, and ultimate milk full of ingredients for a healthy diet without any harmful elements in it.
Over a decade ago, Argov-Argaman started at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to research how cells produce milk in different mammals.
The breakthrough discovery was that it is feasible to imitate the natural process of creating milk without the need for animals' bodies. Instead, it is possible to take from mammals some mammary gland cells that are responsible for secreting milk and leverage such cells to perform their task in vitro.
"We developed the process that helped us to isolate cells from the mammary gland of different mammals. It can not only cover sheep, goats and cows, but also allow the production of human breast milk," noted Argov-Argaman.
At first, isolated cells are grown in plastic plates in a single layer, where they are being exposed to a media, which first causes them to grow, expand and proliferate.
"And then the media is changed to one that induces their lactation, which is producing and secreting the milk components into the media," said Argov-Argaman declining giving details due to the technology being patent-protected.
BioMilk also uses analytical equipment to verify that the cells actually secrete the main components that the company is interested in, especially the main elements of milk like fats, proteins, and sugars.
During more than ten years of research, Argov-Argaman developed methods to improve cell lactation and control it precisely. The next challenge will be to scale up the process.
"We are looking for the best way to enable each cell to produce the maximum amounts of fat, protein, and lactose. Together these are the major components of milk that we will produce," stressed Argov-Argaman.