Bill Gates Under Fire For His Baby Formula Plans Amid Shortage

( It was reported in early May that a North Carolina startup that received a $3.5 million investment from a fund started by Bill Gates is developing a lab-created “human milk” alternative to baby formula, but don’t expect it to help ease the current shortage.

CNN reported that the startup, BIOMILQ, which received $3.5 million from Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund, was first developed by co-founder Leila Strickland in 2013. Strickland, a cell biologist, said she came up with the idea of creating human milk in the lab after learning about the world’s first lab-grown burger.

Strickland told CNN that BIOMILQ is developing the technology to culture human milk-producing cells to combine the nutritional equivalent of breast milk with the convenience of baby formula.

According to the World Health Organization, only a third of babies receive breast milk in the first six months, while most rely on infant formula. Strickland told CNN that baby formula can’t replicate “the complexity of human milk.” By comparison, BIOMILQ’s product would better match the nutrition of breast milk.

BIOMILQ creates its product using cells from human breast tissue and milk donated by women in the nearby community who get a gift card from Target for donating. The cells are grown in flasks while being fed nutrients, then incubated in a bioreactor that mimics the environment within a woman’s breast.

But don’t expect their creepy science experiment to help with the current shortages of baby formula. According to Strickland, BIOMILQ is still about three to five years away from bringing the product to market. They still have to grow mammary cells on a larger scale and for a lower cost.

Even then, BIOMILQ would have to convince federal regulators that the lab-grown mother’s milk is safe for babies. And since there isn’t a regulatory framework in place for lab-grown food products, that won’t be an easy thing.