Inspiration for a new company can come from many different places. For Maya Ashkenazi Otmazgin, a biomedical engineer, it was while breastfeeding her first child that she got the idea to use the health benefits of breast milk, but in nutritional and wellness supplements for adults.
“I was wondering why we don’t understand the proteins in breast milk and try to find bioequivalents in other sources,” she told TechCrunch. “Breast milk is the ‘gold standard’ of nutrients and adults are deprived of one of life’s greatest resources.”
She teamed up with Dr. Ariel Orbach and Eli Lerner in 2018 to form Maolakan Israeli food technology startup focused on creating superfoods by extracting proteins from bovine colostrum or plant-based analogues.
Together, the company’s team assembled a library of over 1,500 known bioactive proteins in human breast milk. They then found that bovine colostrum was one of these “other sources”, having over 400 homologous proteins with over 95% biosimilarity to human breast milk.
Colostrum is a nutrient-rich substance that is present in the milk of mammals during the first few days after birth. It is often dumped in dairies, accounting for more than 5 billion liters of waste annually, Ashkenazi Otmazgin said.
She also points out that the company is the first to “identify and extract the functional proteins from bovine colostrum” and make functional milk protein blends from that colostrum using a proteomics and computational biology discovery platform that can be used for a variety of applications to stimulate the immune system.
The milk protein mixture looks like a white powder that is absorbed in the human body like mother’s milk and is suitable for adding to food, even to cooked foods such as pasta, without losing functionality, Ashkenazi Otmazgin added.
The Maolac mixture has also been shown to produce higher overall efficacy at lower doses. Competitors in the space charge $500 per kilogram, and Ashkenazi Otmazgin says her company will charge similar for its product, but Maolac can provide better efficacy at a fraction of the economics per unit.
Maolac is currently pre-revenue and working on its first product line of anti-inflammatories, one for athletes to reduce muscle tension and improve recovery time, and one to improve mobility in the elderly.
Ashkenazi Otmazgin expects these products to hit the market in 2023. She also claims that the market potential for functional ingredients is huge, about $22 billion a year.
Product Acceleration Aid is a new $3.2 million seed round that closed in January. OurCrowd led the investment and was joined by Strauss Group’s Kitchen FoodTech Hub, Food Tech Lab, Ventures Israel, NAOMI Investments and Mediterranean Towers Ventures. The investment brings the company’s total funding to just over $4 million.
“The idea of transforming the first, nutrient-rich milk from cows that have just given birth into a source of human protein is a pure stroke of genius,” OurCrowd CEO John Medved said in a written statement. “Billions of liters of beef colostrum are wasted every year. Maolac takes this waste and creates a product with enormous potential benefit to millions at a time when the world is desperate for new sustainable sources of protein. The company is a perfect example of circular economy in action.”
The new funding allows Maolac to build a pilot facility that will have small-scale production capabilities of around 100 kilograms per month and create assays and samples for customers and clinical trials. Ashkenazi Otmazgin also plans to add to the company’s team of 12 employees.
In addition, the company is currently working to obtain regulatory approval in both the US and Europe and is in discussions with food and supplement companies in Israel and dairy companies worldwide.