BioNascent: a company that aims to invent vegan formula milk

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BioNascent is a brand new startup company that was formed very recently in February 2016. Mr Craig Rouskey and Mr Shane Greenup are the co-founders of the company and their aim is to produce milk formula, that closely mimics breast milk.

Mr Rouskey, an immunologist, has a rich repertoire of founding startup companies, that includes a company that develops vegan cheese. I had the opportunity to have a chat with him, about his new company and its vision.

The following is the excerpt from my interview with Mr Rouskey.

When was this company founded and what stage of product development is the company at?

Shane Greenup and I presented our idea to IndieBio, which decided to fund us; we are part of IndieBio’s Batch 3 of startup companies. We have been working at this since then. Being a very new company, we are in the early development phase. We aim to replace bovine proteins in milk formula with their humanized versions. We started working in this office at IndieBio two weeks ago and we have expressed certain proteins and are in the process of purifying it.

What is the advantage of replacing animal proteins with synthetic proteins?

The protein concentration in cow milk is very different from that in human milk. This predisposes the child to diabetes, obesity and other diseases. It also has an impact on the immune system and causes allergic reactions. By replacing the bovine proteins with human components, we can get rid of the allergies and obtain a better balance of proteins that creates a healthy level of serum amino acid and down stream insulin production. This gets rid of the diabetes and obesity issue.

In India and other nations, children consume a considerable amount of bovine milk and milk products. By not exposing them to bovine products at an early age, do you forsee any disadvantages?

I don’t see that being a problem. My background is in immunology. Some of the issues with bovine milk, as I mentioned, are allergy to the proteins and the inability to break down lactose. These issues will be resolved through our formula that comprises of human proteins.

In comparison with other milk formula products, what will be the pricing of your product?

It is hard to say at this stage as we are in the early development phase. We are still in the process of producing proteins. However, in the long run our goal is to compete with the prices that exist in the market.

How has the response been for the product, as of now?

The response has been good. Some of our customers were asked why they chose to use baby formula, while some choose to breastfeed. We explained to them that we use human genes in bacteria and other microbes. Most of the respondents said that they would buy the product as long as it was healthy for their child.

How relevant is your product to the world? Is it relevant to only USA?

No, China will most likely be our biggest market. There is a need for high quality infant formula there. We intend to go through the USA regulatory procedure, which will make our product more competitive in China’s market.

When do you plan to release your product in the market?

We plan to release our product in a modular fashion. As we obtain and purify one protein, we will replace that protein in bovine milk formula and make our own formula. Before we have a 100% humanized milk formula, we will have several iterations that are replacing the proteins in the formula. We hope to have a final product in two or three years.

How has your journey as the co-founder of BioNascent been?

The journey has been intense. A month ago, we had no company and no organizational structure. We are now a functioning company, a registered corporation in Delaware, USA. From setting up bank accounts to getting information about us on the web, to being in the lab and purifying proteins, doing all the mentioned things simultaneously, it has been crazy. We have at least three to four months in this program, where our company will evolve at an accelerated pace. It has been fast and we will continue to progress to make this a good company.

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