Fonterra and VitaKey partner on probiotics

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

VitaKey co-founders Dr Robert Langer and Dr Ana Jaklenec, with researcher Stephanie Tomasic. Pic: VitaKey
VitaKey co-founders Dr Robert Langer and Dr Ana Jaklenec, with researcher Stephanie Tomasic. Pic: VitaKey

Related tags Fonterra Probiotics encapsulation

Looking to a future where it is likely that many foods will be more valued for their specific health benefits, Fonterra and VitaKey Inc. have announced a dairy science collaboration on Fonterra’s probiotic strains.

VitaKey specializes in precision delivery of nutrition – an emerging area of research that seeks to deliver the right nutrients, in the right amount, to the right part of the body at the right time.

Co-founded by Dr Robert Langer, the VitaKey delivery technology platform for nutrients is based on technology licensed from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and developed at the Langer Lab, the largest academic biomedical engineering lab in the world.

Utilizing VitaKey’s proprietary technology and customized solutions, Fonterra said it is looking to design dairy products that incorporate targeted and time-controlled release of specific dairy nutrients, starting with probiotics, in a way that locks in the freshness for longer and allows the nutrients to be more active and beneficial in the body.

Judith Swales, CEO for Fonterra’s Asia Pacific region, said the collaboration is part of Fonterra’s long-term strategy and ambition to be a leader in dairy innovation and nutrition science.

“Our coop has a long and proud heritage of dairy innovation, pioneering many world firsts and, increasingly, new solutions which aim to help people live healthier and longer lives,”​ Swales said.

“Home to one of the largest dairy culture libraries in the world, our Research and Development Centre contains more than 40,000 strains. Two of these strains, LactoB 001 and BifidoB 019, address key health concerns such as digestive issues and immunity and are recognised as being in the top five global probiotics.

“By partnering with VitaKey, we aim to ‘make nature better’ by combining the goodness of our New Zealand milk with VitaKey’s technology. In this way, we can really drive our Active Living business by appealing to the growing health and wellness consumer segment that desire the maximum functional benefits from food and are motivated by scientific credibility.

“Because the nutrients are encapsulated and highly targeted, it also means we can use less milk in our production, making our milk go further while reducing food waste.”

The first step in the collaboration aims to stabilize probiotics and deliver them to the digestive tract. This will leverage related MIT technology developed in the Langer Lab that NASA may use to deliver probiotics to astronauts in their planned mission to Mars.

The VitaKey delivery platform has already been shown to preserve and enhance 11 different micronutrients, including vitamins D, A, B12, and C as well as iron, zinc, niacin, and folic acid. Fonterra intends to leverage the VitaKey technology across a range of micronutrients, such as Vitamin D, and introduce them into its products.

Langer, who oversees more than 150 researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that the technology can be customized for every link of the food supply chain.

“The Covid pandemic has underscored the need for solutions to enhance health and wellness and boost the immunity of men, women and children at every stage of life. We believe that good nutritious food can help people of all ages lead healthier lives,”​ Langer said.

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