[Video] PFx Biotech co-founder on using precision fermentation to bolster infant formula supply chain

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Future Food-Tech

Portuguese-based food-tech startup PFx Biotech is harnessing precision-fermentation to create human milk proteins for infant formulas and other applications, company Co-founder Harry Barraza shared during the Future Food-Tech Alternative Proteins event in Chicago last week.

Founded in 2022, PFx Biotech offers a range of human milk proteins, including lactoferrin, osteopontin and α-Lactalbumin, Barraza said. PFx Biotech developed proprietary genetic strains to produce human milk protein through precision fermentation, providing similar functional properties as human milk but that are allergen-free.  

“What we are trying to do is offer new functional proteins that are chemically, structurally and functionally similar to human breast milk,” Barraza said. “These are very important proteins for the growth period for children and can be incorporated into infant formula as well.”

‘What we bring is the additional stability for the supply chain’

In 2022, several infant formula manufacturing facilities shut down, and products were voluntarily recalled due to possible contamination risks, creating an infant formula shortage in the US. The FDA enacted an enforcement discretion to boost the infant formula supply by allowing imports from other companies, including goat-milk products​.

Beyond the shortage, the infant formula market can be volatile given the extra processes required to extract proteins from cow milk, Barraza said.  

“What we bring is the additional stability for the supply chain with a product that not only can replace the existing offer for protein, but also it can offer new benefits that create products that are not available today. So, it is balancing the dependence from animal-farmed ingredients, with new functionalities added by this type of technologies based on precision fermentation,” Barraza said.

While the infant formula market will be a priority, PFx Biotech is also exploring how its bio-derived ingredients can be incorporated into other products like sports nutrition beverages and products to support muscle and bone health for all age demographics, he said.

“The idea is that some of these proteins have shown benefits for muscle growth, so we can think about weightlifters, but on the other spectrum, you can think about ... elderly people or people that need to [improve] bones and muscles,” he added.

Growing PFx Biotech with partnerships

Similar to other biotech companies, PFx Biotech is relying on venture-capital funding to support its growth while finding opportunities to partner with CPG companies on product innovation, Barraza said.

Last year, global alt-protein investment firm Idea Ventures selected​ PFx Biotech along with nine other startups to be a part of its New Protein Fund II accelerator program.

"The key for PFx Biotech is partnerships. We believe in partnership. We believe in the power of [coming] together to get these types of ingredients into applications that are novel - that can offer new benefits to consumers. ... We are already working with the largest [companies] that not only have infant formulas but other products that can be brought to market quickly," he said.

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