Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Mother's Milk - It's Not What It Used To Be

You have probably not heard about the latest product being financially supported by at least two of America's wealthiest oligarchs but it is not a terrible surprise given that at least one of the United States wealthiest individuals proclaims himself as a health care expert.


Here is the product:


Biomilq claims that it is hard to breastfeed for most women and impossible for many women and that 


"...four out of five moms have to stop breastfeeding before the recommended six months.  That means that the vast majority of us are turning to dairy-based formula.  And that means that many us face serious trade-offs, as infant formula lacks the critical nutrients of breastmilk and carries a heavy environmental burden."


In fact, here is the 2018 Breastfeeding Report Card for the United States from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:



Note that on a nationwide basis, among infants born in 2015, 83.2 percent started put breastfeeding, that 57.6 percent were breastfeeding at 6 months and that 35.9 percent were breastfeeding at 12 months.  The CDC does state this:


"These rates suggest that mothers may not be getting the support they need from health care providers, family members, and employers to meet their breastfeeding goals."

We will visit this issue later.


Biomilq is creating a "cultured breastmilk" that offers a supplemental nutrition to mother's milk with the convenience of formula.  The company is producing human casein and lactose (two of the ingredients of human breastmilk" and they believe that they can replicate the nutritional value of breastmilk.  At this point in time, Biomilq is focussing its efforts to develop and fine-tune its cultured breastmilk and plans to bring it to market as soon as the product meets "rigorous quality standards".


With this company in the early stages of developing its product, Biomilq obviously needs investors to fund its research and development programs, in this case, producing breastmilk by culturing human mammary cells.  Here is a recent press release from Biomilq reporting on its most recent investors:



You will note a rather odd investor going by the name of "Breakthrough Energy Ventures".  To me, this sounds like an investor that would be more comfortable investing in either hydrocarbons or green energy.  Let's take a brief look at Breakthrough Energy Ventures.   Here is a screen capture from the lead page of their website:



Now we know that they are a group that invests in alternative/green energy.  


Here is their mission:


"Breakthrough Energy Ventures is an investor-led fund focused on building the new, cutting-edge companies that will deliver on that promise. Our strategy links government-funded research to patient, risk-tolerant capital so that more transformative clean energy innovations get to market faster."


Now, let's look at their portfolio:



Among all of the companies that are looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we find Biomilq which, according to Breakthrough, is:


"Providing more sustainable alternatives to dairy production for better infant nutrition."


Now, let's get to the interesting part.  Here is screen capture showing us who is behind Breakthrough Energy Ventures with a listing of the groups investors and leadership:



And there you have it; Bill Gates (the world's foremost epidemiologist) who is Breakthrough's Chair of the Board.  Once again, we find vaccine promoter Bill Gates leading the charge in yet another experimental health-based project. He is joined by fellow high profile American multi-billionaires Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Michael Bloomberg of Bloomberg LP and Ray Dalio of Bridgewater (a hedge fund).


Let's step back for a moment and look at human breast milk.  While it does contain both casein and lactose, it contains a very significant number of other components.  According to breast expert Natalie Shenker at Imperial College, human breast milk is very unique:


'Breast milk contains thousands of different molecules, growth factors, hormones, microorganisms and cells, which work together to provide the human baby with all the tools necessary to grow and develop normally. Many of its components have only recently been discovered – leaving the tantalising possibility that more remain – and the functions of many remain unknown.


Human milk has evolved to specifically nourish human babies. Hundreds of bioactive components directly protect them from pathogens found in their environment.


Compared with other species, a higher proportion and diversity of fatty acids support the growth of the human brain (which is particularly large in comparison to that of other mammals), and an extraordinarily diverse microbiome (>800 bacterial strains on average, along with fungi, parasites and viruses) drives the healthy development of infant gut physiology. The composition of the breast milk microbiome changes over months and years, and work is ongoing to understand the impact this has on the developing gut.


Breast milk contains cells – and lots of them. In mature milk (produced approximately six weeks after birth), a single millilitre can contain millions of epithelial lactocytes, stem cells and immune cells.


Colostrum, produced within the first two to three days after birth, provides an energy-rich dose in just a few millilitres per feed, but also includes a dense cellular component made up predominantly of white blood cells. Of these, the most common cells are breast-specific macrophages, which can engulf and absorb harmful microorganisms.


These macrophages also manufacture lactoferrin and lysozyme. The former is an iron-binding protein that helps the baby to absorb and store iron. As well as being important nutritionally, this prevents the growth of harmful microorganisms such as E. coli, Staphylococcus species and yeast (Candida), which need iron to survive.


Lysozyme is an enzyme that kills bacteria by disrupting their cell walls and also has antiviral effects. Both it and lactoferrin increase in concentration in breast milk over time as babies become mobile and start to explore their environment.'


Given the chemical complexity of human breastmilk, I find it rather hard to believe that technology will be able to create a viable alternative no matter what Bill Gates and his fellow oligarchs may believe.


Let's close by looking at one of the problems with breastfeeding that could be resolved without any investment by the billionaire oligarch class.  Here is a graphic from Pew showing how the United States stacks up when it comes to paid parental leave:



As you can see, the United States comes in dead last when it comes to paid parental leave.  This means that American mothers who wish to breastfeed their children for the recommended six month period run into significant obstacles.


I find it fascinating that, rather than fixing the problem of mother's not being able to breastfeed for the recommended six months because of laws regarding parental leave, this group of American billionaires is going to "fix' the problem using technology.  Sometimes there is a far simpler solution, however, that solution simply won't make this group of overly wealthy men any wealthier.  Sorry Bill.



  1. "Sometimes there is a far simpler solution, however, that solution simply won't make this group of overly wealthy men any wealthier. Sorry Bill."

    That is the whole point of the exercise. You cannot make money with maternity leave.

    The same with electric vehicles - an exercise of environmental futility. But: you cannot make real money with public transportation. So you create something equally idiotic as gas powered vehicle but slap a green label onto it.

  2. Are we sure Biomilq is not a front for Nestlé? /s

    If a company with a board of directors like that approached me, I would fleeing in the opposite direction as fast as I could!

    Biomilq looks like a possibly good idea in that there is a need for such a product in some circumstances where a mother cannot breastfeed. Unfortunately it, also, looks like an attempt to plaster over cracks in the social welfare system plus an attempt to whitewash some nasty oligarchs. Given Jeff Bezos treatment of his workers, it is hard to see this as anything but a publicity ploy.

    With Gates I am not so sure. A couple of his projects have appeared to me to have been well-intended but clueless. I think he is a victim of Dunning-Kruger Syndrome. He is a wildly successful businessman so he “knows” that he can solve other problems—often using the wildly inappropriate methods that worked in the software industry. To some extent I would say the same thing about Jack Ma. he “knows” that he can solve other problems—often using the wildly inappropriate methods that worked in the software industry.

    As an aside, i wonder if some of the shorter maternity leaves from the Pew chart understates “actual” maternity leaves? For example, here in Canada, the Pew figure looks accurate but in real life the Employment Insurance system is explicitly rejigged to allow up to 52 weeks though with somewhat reduced benefits

  3. Maybe somebody should put breastfeeding under the National Security priorities as maintaining the health of the nation...