Milk thrown away in vast quantities as waste is being turned into an eco-friendly superfood by a pioneering Israeli biotech firm.
And the extraordinary breakthrough behind the innovation is all thanks to a moment of inspiration from the company’s founder while she was breastfeeding.
Each year, more than five billion litres of bovine colostrum — the milk produced by cows for new-born calves — is simply discarded.
Until now, this colossal waste has simply been accepted as standard practice in the global dairy industry.
But cutting-edge biotech firm Maolac, which is based near Haifa, has found a way to convert the fluid into an incredibly valuable source of nutrition for humans to consume.
Maolac’s CEO and founder Maya Ashkenazi, 30, who has a Masters in biomedical engineering, thought up the idea about four years ago as she was breastfeeding her daughter.
She told the JC: “Looking down at her, I was in awe of the fact that all her little body needed in order to grow and develop into a fully formed toddler was this one single liquid — breast milk.
“I realised that if I could only crack the code of breast milk, I could surely make it accessible to people everywhere, and not just for infants.
“The protein make-up of human breast milk is vast and varied.
“Having studied it so thoroughly, I am convinced that our data proves that breast milk is the gold standard for human nutrition, and if we were to live to be 120 years old, we could surely benefit from breast-milk components.”
Colostrum has long been recognised as being a rich source of beneficial ingredients.
The nutrient-rich pre-milk produced by mammals for their newborns is said to boost the immune system and contain anti-inflammatory properties.
Maolac devised a sophisticated search algorithm that it used to study and compare colostrum from cows and humans.
It says that it discovered more than 400 proteins from bovine colostrum, and they are almost identical to the proteins found in human breast milk.
Ms Ashkenazi said: “There are more than five billion litres of colostrum worldwide thrown away each year. Maolac will be the first company to upcycle colostrum.
“We are creating something new from something that is discarded.
“Our platform is the first of its kind and can compare any two sources to find ‘hits’ — proteins with high bio similarity, which the platform then categorises into groups according to the protein’s activities.
“Although we are now sourcing proteins from bovine colostrum for humans, we could potentially find ‘hits’ for any mammals, creating immune-boosting products for dogs or cats or other creatures, and eventually source our proteins from anywhere including, plant-based sources.”
Maolac’s plan is to create products that will eventually be sold as active ingredients to food and supplements companies for them to integrate the proteins into their own wares.
This could take the form of anything from protein supplements and bars to yogurts or even ice creams.
Ms Ashkenazi said: “Preventative nutrition is the future — soon we hope you’ll have your Maolac-infused ice cream to relieve your arthritis or other inflammatory illnesses.
“We are also innovating with protein-based probiotic sourced with Maolac’s products to help with gut issues.”
Maolac’s development is now at the preclinical stage before it is submitted to food and drug watchdogs in the US and Europe with a view to the products being available to the consumer.