US-based start-up Yali Bio claims to have created the world’s first human bioidentical breast milk fat. 

The firm says its researchers used precision fermentation to coax the yeast into producing a fat called OPO that is naturally found in high concentrations in breast milk and helps infants to absorb critical nutrients.

According to Yali Bio, OPO is one of the key nutritional differences between breast milk and infant formula, as there is no economical source of pure OPO available to the producers of formula, which rely on fats from vegetable oils or cow’s milk. The company said its fats have already been used to make more sustainable, non-animal versions of milk, ice cream, butter, and foie gras.

The firm says that if produced at scale, its fat would allow formula makers to put more OPO in their products, potentially leading to better health outcomes for infants. 

Yali Bio said its milestone was made possible with a grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The company also announced a series of new hires to bring this innovation and others to market, including former Cargill R&D head Dr. Lorin DeBonte and former Impossible Foods executive Don DiMasi.

Dr. Yulin Lu, CEO of Yali Bio and a veteran of Impossible Foods and Eat Just said: “We are at a pivotal point in the growth of our company, which is transitioning from a platform innovator with strong scientific proofs of concept, into a business that can serve multiple markets in food and nutrition.

Yali Bio CEO Yulin Lu
Yulin Lu. Image via Yali Bio.

“Using precision fermentation to make high-purity, functional fats and lipids is not only important for food and nutrition, but it can also be transformative for society and the planet.”

Lu added that the company plans to continue developing its OPO research, alongside the development of other innovative ingredients, which can improve nutrition and lower the greenhouse gas emissions of food production.

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