Opalia’s animal-free milk is now closer to commercialisation after the Canadian company replaced its cell culture medium, fetal bovine serum (FBS), with a non-animal-derived alternative.
FBS comes from the placenta of pregnant cows, making it a controversial ingredient in products that are intended to be animal-free. The serum is also expensive, prone to contamination, and highly variable between batches. But now, Opalia has found a replacement substrate that is FDA-approved, making its cell-based milk more ethical and potentially speeding up the process of regulatory approval.
Alternatives to FBS
Several companies have been working on alternative cell culture media — such as Aleph Farms, which is collaborating with WACKER to develop a non-exclusive medium that will be available to other companies. Meanwhile, scientists have found a way of growing stem cell lines without the need for any cell culture media whatsoever, which has the potential to slash the cost of cultivated products.
Animal-free milk production
Opalia’s milk is made by placing enhanced mammary epithelial cells in a bioreactor, where they grow and lactate. In this way, all the components of conventional dairy can be produced without cows, including two whey proteins, four casein proteins, and milk fats.
Opalia says the milk could be used in a wide range of applications, from food to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. The company will soon be looking to upscale production and move towards commercialisation.
“By successfully replacing FBS with a cheaper, non-animal-derived cell growth substrate, we have reduced the cost and risk of manufacturing cell-based milk, bringing Opalia one step closer to introducing consumers to no-compromises, animal-free dairy,” said Jennifer Côté, co-founder and CEO of Opalia. “Our new FBS replacement substrate enables us to reliably grow our mammary cells to cost-effectively scale up production of sustainable and fully functional animal-free milk.”