Beoogd prototype © Babylat

About Babylat

  • Founders: Zina Yudina
  • Founded in: 2020
  • Employees: 1
  • Money raised: Own funds and grants: €60,000
  • Ultimate goal: Saving lives of premature babies by making supplemental nutrition based on the proteins in mother's breast milk

Reducing the mortality rate of premature babies by giving them supplementary nutrition based on human milk protein instead of animal protein. That is the future, according to Swiss company Babylat. CEO Zina Yudina explains how she plans to put this into practice.

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CEO of Babylat Zina Yudina © Student Project House, ETH, Zurich

What does Babylat do?

“Very early premature babies (weighing <1.5 kg or less) develop a protein deficiency when they receive only non-enriched human milk. To remedy this, animal protein is currently added to their diet (so-called protein fortifiers), which is not healthy. Sometimes this leads to higher morbidity rates or even mortality of already very vulnerable preterm neonatal infants (neonates).
Ideally, this should be protein from breast milk. The technology to do that at points of care is lacking. This is where we come in. We have built a prototype that can extract proteins from human milk. Without raising any ethical concerns that involve exploiting women in third world countries, for example.”

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    How did Babylat come up with this idea?

    “The first idea came about after I gave birth to my second child. I wasn’t able to breastfeed this baby as much as I had done with my first because I was doing a postdoc. My baby didn’t want the milk I pumped so I froze it. Human milk contains important nutrients and it helps to build up the baby’s immune system. But how to combine optimal length of breastfeeding (as recommended by WHO the breastfeeding should last at least 6 months with no other food introduced to the infant, so-called exclusively human milk-based diet) and with a very short maternity leave (<3-4 months usually)?
    This is so-called working mother dilemma that needs to be urgently solved. Thus the main question was how I could help other working women who were facing the same problem to prolong the beneficial effects of breastfeeding. So, the idea for a protein extraction device was born and after by one leading neonatologist the idea of preterm nutrition was suggested and finally came to the action as a main direction for our device. The working mother dilemma would wait then for better times, once we fix the preterm nutrition application first.

    “It is going to be a machine which will automatically extract the milk proteins from human milk collected at points of care. The highly-concentrated proteins afterwards can be reconstituted with human milk and thus added as supplemental nutrition to the preterm neonates to match their special protein requirements. The mother’s own milk can be used for this purpose, but we can also work with human milk banks which collect donor milk. Based on the feedback from the medical community, it was predicted that this would make a great match for developing such a device to optimize the supplemental nutrition of premature babies.”

    What is the main challenge Babylat is facing?

    “There is enthusiasm, but that is predicated on a fully functioning product. The idea is new, it’s not being done yet and consequently costs a lot of money. That money isn’t there. I have put my own money into the company and have also received several awards and grants, but it involves so much. For example, more research data has to be collected to substantiate it scientifically, the product has to be completely safe which means it has to be accredited. It is also emotionally demanding to do this alone with a few advisors only. I’m up against big companies with a lot more resources who do not want newcomers on the market.”

    How do you envisage the future of Babylat?

    “I would love to see this device used in every hospital with neonatal intensive care units to lower the mortality rate among premature babies. And help remedy life-threathening diseases that premature babies can get from a lack of enough human milk origin proteins. In order to achieve my goal, I still need partners and investors who, like me, believe in the urgency of our product.”

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    About the author

    Author profile picture Andreia da Silva is a journalist. Her motivation for writing is the power of wonder. Every story has a story of its own. With passion, she now interviews start-ups.