Functional food opportunities: TurtleTree explores new realm with cell-based milk technology

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

The company hopes to launch functional foods from the human milk bioactives and functional ingredients derived from its technology. ©Getty Images
The company hopes to launch functional foods from the human milk bioactives and functional ingredients derived from its technology. ©Getty Images

Related tags: TurtleTree Labs, Infant nutrition, Functional food

TurtleTree, a biotech company using mammalian cells to produce cell-based milk, is now eyeing how its tech can be transferred to the functional foods space.

Based in Singapore since 2019, the company started work on infant nutrition, developing breast milk​ using stem cells from volunteers to create mammary glands that lactate.

Human breast milk contains components such human milk oliosaccharides and milk proteins which are important for infants’ health.

We noticed that the same components have been shown scientifically to be amazing for adult health as well​,” said Max Rye, TurtleTree’s chief strategist.

The company hopes to launch functional foods from the human milk bioactives and functional ingredients derived from its technology.

We hope to incorporate these into high value, functional foods that are good for gut and brain health among other functions​,” Rye told NutraIngredients-Asia​.

To showcase this, TurtleTree plans to launch a breast milk prototype this year, but it will not be a glass of milk.

It’s going to be a combination of proteins and sugars that we were able to extract out of the milk, and incorporate these into all types of foods like yoghurts​.”

Rye said the functional food arm will run parallel to its infant nutrition arm, which TurtleTree is already working with infant formula companies to upgrade existing formulas with the technology and functional components.

The company is also working on bovine milk​ with the same technology, although it is taking a back seat at the moment with more resources pumped into infant nutrition.

We have a lot of progress, but it depends on our partnerships with the industry and consumer demand for bovine milk. What we found was that even though we can make bovine versions, the industry is more excited about the human milk side​,” Rye said.

R&D expansion

TurtleTree recently established its R&D headquarters in Davis, California.

This is an expansion to its R&D capabilities in Singapore.

Rye said: “TurtleTree is focused on being a global company, and this means having a presence in Davis where the world’s leading experts in human milk and bovine milk are based​.”

In addition to Davis being a food tech hub, many growth factors for the cellular agriculture industry are also produced there, so TurtleTree will be producing its culture media growth factors there.

The company is enrolled in UC Davis’ START program, which provides training and resources to equip UC Davis-associated entrepreneurs with the tools they need to form and grow successful companies.

TurtleTree’s R&D headquarters at Davis will employ researchers, scientists and house its own cell cultures and bioreactors.

TurtleTree will work with commercial partners in North America to co-develop, test and commercialise early prototypes.

With so much expertise in human milk bioactives and functional ingredients, we are able to leverage the most cutting edge research to drive our innovation​” said Rye.

Earlier this year, TurtleTree launched TurtleTree Scientific to produce food-grade growth factors.

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