Helaina is the company behind advanced infant formula with the same proteins found in breast milk. The New York City-based company was founded in 2019 by food scientist Laura KatzSeeking to advance nutrition for infants by recreating the functional components of breast milk. Now Katz is ready to extend the use case of its technology to all ages.
immunity for all
“When these proteins are consumed in breast milk and are in our secretions, tears, and sweat, they provide the first line of defense for our immune system and they know how to really interact with and talk to the cells in our body — and that’s very powerful.
“That’s one of the reasons we see breast milk as such a critical source of nutrients, because it has these proteins in it, and we’ve done a lot in building the company and the technology to make them. Intentional and internal business development to understand how we can bring this technology to the masses.”Katz told FoodNavigator-USA.
The idea, Katz added, has attracted the interest of quite a few companies where Helaina can sell her proteins, as well as manufacture their own consumer products that will serve early-to-late life nutrition.
“It expands the technology we put into many different categories where we can have a real impact on people’s immune health.”said Katz.
‘The options are endless’
Katz said the company is interested in developing offerings that serve nutrition first.
“[Helaina is looking at] where nutrition is the primary driver of why someone will eat or why a consumer will buy that product. So, food substitutes, drinks, powders, bars, supplements, everything in the world of things people look for as a proactive way to take care of their health.said Katz. “The options and opportunities are endless.”
A new content class
Katz explained that to make these glycoproteins, Helaina took yeast and effectively programmed it to create a special class of glycoproteins through synthetic biology.
“So a lot of the engineering and work we do in our lab is to take yeast and figure out how these proteins look and have the structure they had when they emerged. To be able to do this on a large scale, we take this yeast, we ferment it, we need it to grow, develop, and produce these proteins. We give him all the nutrients he needs.
“And then we capture the proteins made from our little yeast cell factories. And that’s exactly what gets turned into components. So it’s a purified glycoprotein, but produced through yeast cells.”
the future of food
Katz said he expects the proteins Helaina is developing to be in all foods in the future.
“Twenty years from now, they will be in all ubiquitous foods like calcium or vitamin C, so for us as a business, we want to be very committed to how we start bringing this new class of ingredients to consumers. The power of what they can do for our health is really huge, and we do this with babies. We see it by proving it together with breast milk.
“So as we go through this process, which will require a lot of education and training for the people who will eat it, we want to make sure that we are going through channels that are logical and also compatible with each other. We really care about improving nutrition and health for ordinary people, whether they are babies, the elderly or anyone in between. “
Helaina is in the middle of collecting batch records from production, safety data and other data required for GRAS issuing processes. “The timing is a bit difficult to predict, but we hope it happens sooner rather than later.”