Pfizer forms human milk partnership with German oligosaccharide specialist

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Human milk, Milk, Nutrition

Pfizer forms human milk partnership with German oligosaccharide specialist
German biotech start-up Jennewein Biotechnologie has inked a deal with drug giant Pfizer’s nutrition division to develop oligosaccharides derived from human milk (HMOs).

The partnership aims to develop and market HMOs for use in infant formulas in an attempt to bring their formulation closer to that of maternal milk. Products utilising HMOs but aimed at adults will also be developed under the agreement that sees Jennewein licensed to develop two of Pfizer's HMOs.

“Human milk, the ‘gold standard’ due to its special composition of lipids, proteins and HMOs, is the best nutrition for infants,”​ Jennewein said in a statement.

Some studies in the scientific literature show that HMOs can boost infant immunity, especially during lactation, although agencies like the European Food Safety Authority have not backed such claims.

Complementary competencies

"Complex oligosaccharides in general and HMOs in particular show an enormous potential for use in human nutrition,”​ said Dr Stefan Jennewein, Jennewein managing director and co-founder.

“The cooperation between Pfizer Nutrition and Jennewein Biotechnologie will accelerate the developments in this field by bringing together specific complementary competencies."

John Troup, PhD, the vice president of global research and development at Pfizer Nutrition (formerly Wyeth) added: "Building upon nearly a century as pioneers in infant nutritional science, we are constantly striving to more closely replicate the composition and functional benefits of breast milk, and this partnership truly helps further this mission.”

Misleading?

But Patti Rundall, from the UK pro-breast feeding group, Baby Milk Action, was wary of the aims of the partnership.

“This will be just another excuse to promote ingredients/prebiotics in ways that mislead parents by suggesting that the products match or almost match human milk,”​ she said.

The UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition in 2007 stated: “We find the case for labelling infant formula or follow on formula with health or nutrition claims entirely unsupportable. If an ingredient is unequivocally beneficial as demonstrated by independent review of scientific data it would be unethical to withhold it for commercial reasons. Rather it should be made a required ingredient of infant formula in order to reduce existing risks associated with artificial feeding.”

Jennewein was founded in 2005 and is focused on the development mono- and oligosaccharides. It focuses on personal care/cosmetics, nutrition and R&D diagnostics.

“The mission of Jennewein Biotechnologie is to provide sugars with scientifically proven health benefits and to make these available to larger consumer groups,”​ said the company of itself.

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