Increase cell culture human milk production
In response to growing concerns for the environment and animal welfare, cell farming is increasingly being explored as a more sustainable way to produce a range of products traditionally derived from animal husbandry. Eighteen months ago, the world’s first human cell culture milk was created by 108Laboratories. Since then, the company has strived to move the area from laboratory to factory by building the world’s first stand-alone facility producing cell culture breast milk products.
To learn more about how human cell culture milk is produced and how it compares to breast milk, Technological networks spoke with Shayne Guiliano, CEO of 108Labs. In this interview, Shayne also highlights the impact that scaling technology will have and shares his thoughts on what may be in store for the future of cellular agriculture.
Anna MacDonald (AM): What have been the main drivers of the interest and development of breast milk in cell culture?
Shayne Guiliano (SG): The milk project started out as a curiosity at 108Labs in 2013 as to whether it was possible to milk mammary cells instead of cows, and things really took off in early 2020 when we created the first cell culture milk. scalable because suddenly everyone who thought it was impossible had to reconsider. We self-funded the project until the first cell culture milk from 2013 to 2020, because no one thought it was possible.
For consumers, I think mothers are excited about an option that’s closer to breast milk. I think everyone would like to see less dependence on animal farming, and bovine milk is a big, obvious victory in reducing animal slavery in the food system. The impact of animal dairy farming on global warming gives cell culture milk the opportunity to impact the world in several ways. There is also a great movement of investors towards plant and cell-based food alternatives since ImpossibleMT Burger has hit hard, and the world suddenly seems ready for food innovation. Cell culture meat is also leading the way, creating a general awareness of things created with cells. I think basic cell culture milk is maybe easier to resolve than long term meat because with milk you don’t eat the cells.
AM: Can you explain the basics of making milk?
SG: Isolate the breast cells, grow them, place them in our bioreactor using our milk production protocol, then start collecting milk every day a little later. The cells do all the work, we just had to find the recipe to keep them happy, which took many years, but now it’s almost a given. Of course, these cells can produce milk if you have enough.
AM: What challenges did you encounter in moving the land from the laboratory to the factory? What benefits will the move bring?
SG: The main challenge with cell culture milk is that we cannot use the same bioreactor technology that is used for all other biotechnologies. Usually the yeast or Escherichia coli or Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells are grown in large suspension vessels, but our cells need a 3D structure in order to organize themselves into artificial mammary glands before they can produce whole milk. And no one has extended this bioreactor technology to a therapeutic or food scale. Using larger containers with the 3D structure we need presents challenges. So we need massively parallel and autonomous production systems, whether or not we can scale up the bioreactors. And manual bioreactor management is not scalable, maybe one technology can run 30 bioreactors if they don’t take a vacation. Manual operation also increases the risk of losing the bioreactor through contamination and actually disrupts the cells to harvest them as we now need to.
What our factory design takes advantage of is that our bioreactor is continuously productive, which means that once you grow the cells and start milk production, they continue to produce milk over time. time, so there are significant savings if you can automate the management of this continuous production. Having a well-designed hardware and software stack creates a continuously scalable and easily replicable system around the world. And the use of AI and continuous monitoring will ensure that very little human guidance will be needed in choosing when to harvest, for example, or add more sources of carbon or nitrogen to the cellular diet. Once we build our “vertical slice” proving that we can automate front-to-back production for 2 bioreactors, we can scale up to 250 million bioreactors to replace bovine milk production worldwide. by 2040. By the way, if we had that infrastructure ready now to support cells, it would only take 50 days to replace all of the cow’s milk production in the world, thanks to the wonders of the exponential doubling of cells.
AM: How does cultured milk compare nutritionally to breast milk? What about the microbiome?
SG: In fact, our list of molecules is really amazing, and if you break it down into components, it is clear that we will have many special benefits from breast milk because we have all the major beneficial molecules. We don’t have a microbiome because we produce it under sterile conditions, but we have all of the special molecules that help support a healthy microbiome, including the world’s first fully diverse HMO (Human Milk Oligosaccharide) set and all beneficial proteins. 108Labs has also developed novel milk secretory antibody biotechnology that will actually replicate many of the immunological benefits of maternal antibodies.
AM: Can you tell us more about the therapeutic potential of the secretory antibodies produced?
SG: Well, secretory antibodies can save lives by preventing infection with pathogens and they can support a healthy microbiome. For newborns who cannot make their own secretory antibodies, they could really save a lot of suffering and death. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimate that the lives of more than 820,000 children under 5 could be saved each year if all children from 0 to 23 months were optimally breastfed, giving them access to all the immunological benefits of breast milk, of which secretory antibodies constitute an important part.
Secretory antibodies are really, really special. Secretory IgA (SIgA) actually covers any part of your body that is exposed to air. Your body will be making grams of SIgA today, and with every breath and bite you eat, the pathogens drop into a sea of ââmucous SIgA that captures them to protect you before they can infect you. But before the age of six months, you cannot produce SIgA, and some people lose the ability to do so when receiving cancer treatment or are just old, and some can never produce SIgA at all. , so there are a lot of lives to protect.
AM: Where do you see the future of cellular agriculture?
SG: There are so many cells waiting to be put on a pedestal and used to create things to build, nurture, and heal. For example, cell culture wood … why do you have to cut down forests to produce wood? There are not enough forests in the world, we have to learn how to grow wood faster from cells. There are many other types of cells waiting to be exploited other than meat and milk. 108Labs has thought of a lot, a lot that we hope to develop one day. They are all around us, we just have to look around us.
Shayne Guiliano was speaking to Anna MacDonald, Science Editor for Technology Networks.