Improved Infant Formula on the Horizon through Innovative Research

InteliSpark client, Zymtronix Catalytic Systems, Inc., was awarded a research grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), via the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, to test the feasibility of their novel technology in producing complex human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) more efficiently and affordably for improved infant formulas.

HMOs, the third largest component found in human breast milk, lead to stronger immune systems in breast-fed babies compared to formula-fed babies. HMOs feed good bacteria in the gut and are also absorbed into the baby’s blood stream to support the developing immune system.

But not all parents have the option to breast feed. Researchers have attempted to introduce HMOs into infant formula, but the biggest challenge is accessibility and affordability of complex synthetic glycans.   

Dr. Alexander Hoepker, lead biochemist at the Cornell University spinoff, Zymtronix Catlytic Systems, Inc., will lead phase I of this research project to demonstrate key steps for the production of HMOs. Researchers will utilize the company’s unique technology in enzyme immobilization to significantly improve HMO production efficiency while establishing substantial cost savings.

Enzymes serve as biological catalysts by speeding up chemical reactions. Enzyme immobilization occurs when enzymes attach to inert matrices allowing for increased functional efficiency and reusing of an enzyme. Zymtronix sees the potential application for the production of HMOs.

Improved infant formula with the introduction of HMOs may lead to long-lasting, positive effects on formula-fed babies.