Cream of the crop: Maolac wins NutraIngredients Start-up Award 2024

By Matt Chittock

- Last updated on GMT

© Suriphon Singha / Getty Images
© Suriphon Singha / Getty Images

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In 2024, many ambitious start-ups aim to address global health concerns like inflammation-related ailments and gut health. But in a crowded market, Israeli biotech firm Maolac has a unique approach which stands out from the crowd.

It aims to tackle these problems by successfully harnessing cutting-edge AI and deep protein intelligence to develop indication-specific functional protein formulations. These formulations carry a high bio-similarity to human breast milk—which it considers the gold standard for human nutrition—helping fulfill the demand for potent and targeted nutritional supplements.

It is through this unique mix of nature and technology that Maolac impressed industry judges to take home this year’s NutraIngredients Start-up Award.

“Winning the NutraIngredients award fills us with immense pride and excitement,” said Yael Averbuch, head of marketing at Maolac, upon receiving the prize at a party hosted in Geneva on May 15.

“It validates our hard work, dedication and commitment to innovation. We’re thrilled to be recognized by industry experts and peers. Winning this award signifies that our ground-breaking approach to functional protein formulations has made a real impact.”

Cutting-edge AI

Maolac was launched in 2018 by CEO Maya Ashkenaz, originally focusing on bringing the benefits of human milk to the food and beverage industry.

Today, what helps Maolac get ahead is its original approach to research. Most businesses research ingredients to uncover health benefits. Instead, Maoloc begins the process by investigating human indications before designing bioactive protein combinations to tackle them.

Its ‘secret’ weapon is Maoreka, Maolac’s proprietary AI system. Maoreka scans the start-up’s proteomic libraries and scientific data, using AI precision and NLP techniques to analyze protein combinations.

This cutting-edge tech, alongside deep protein intelligence, allows Maoloc to identify and isolate specific groups of functional proteins from natural dairy or plant-based sources. They are then used to create potent formulations that demonstrate efficacy at low dosages.

The start-up’s first products, Maolactin for Gut Support and Maolactin for Anti-Inflammatory Activity, were based on targeted bovine colostrum isolates. Bovine colostrum is the initial milk secreted by cows during the first day after calving.

The anti-inflammatory formulation provides a solution for athletes who need efficient muscle recovery and older people suffering from muscle and joint pains. Meanwhile, the gut health product offers holistic gut protection by reducing local inflammations and building a healthy environment for gut flora to grow.

Because Maolac’s products carry high bio-similarity to human breast milk, they are easily absorbed and used by the body. The formulations go through preclinical tests—starting from testing the ingredients for biological activity on human’s cells through to in vivo​ tests on mice and clinical trials in humans.

Pushing boundaries

So what’s next on the horizon for the company? Despite its achievements, Maolac sees itself as standing right at the start of its journey.

Soon it plans to launch a plant-based Maolactin, opening the product line up to consumers with different dietary preferences and needs. It has an eye on expansion too, taking it to fresh markets all over the world. Maolac is already active in the U.S., growing in the EU and soon venturing into the Asian Pacific region. Along the way, it plans to continually refine and expand its Maolactin product line while exploring new functional proteins and their applications.

“[The award] reinforces our belief in the potential of Maolactin to revolutionize nutritional supplements,” said Averbuch. “It also motivates us to continue pushing boundaries and delivering exceptional products.”

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