EPA approves precision fermentation of milk proteins

The Environmental Protection Authority has approved an application from Daisy Lab Limited to produce dairy-identical proteins using genetically modified organisms in a contained facility.

EPA’s General Manager Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Dr Chris Hill says, “Precision fermentation has the potential to offer significant savings in land use, water use, and reduction in carbon footprint.

“Daisy Lab holds an existing approval to genetically modify two types of yeast in containment – which in this case means in a secure laboratory environment.

“This new approval will allow them to scale up the work already underway and increase production.

“As part of this approval, Daisy Lab will be required to put in place several controls, which will ensure the genetically modified yeast is contained at all times.

“Following fermentation, the proteins, such as whey or casein, are harvested and purified so all of the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will be removed.

“Similar work is being undertaken internationally and we are confident this work poses no risk to human health.”

The application was made under the EPA’s rapid assessment pathway, which means the decision was provided to the applicant within ten working days.

“I’m pleased we are able to provide timely decisions like this to researchers wishing to study well understood, low-risk organisms.

“The applicant was required to demonstrate their stringent safety standards, and their facility will be inspected.”

Precision fermentation

  • Precision fermentation refers to the controlled cultivation of genetically modified (GM) microorganisms (in this case yeast) in bioreactors.
  • The yeast is genetically modified to include the gene which codes for the desired protein.
  • The GM yeast is then cultivated in large-scale fermentation bioreactors, where it produces the desired proteins.
  • After fermentation, the proteins are harvested and purified to ensure they are free of any genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The decision documents can be read HERE.

Daisy Lab today released a media statement to say the approval it has obtained from the Environmental Protection Authority will enable it build its first pilot facility and boost production.

The company says New Zealand, as the largest global dairy exporter, boasts the world’s leading dairy ecosystem and dairy processing expertise.

But this scale brings challenges, particularly concerning greenhouse gas emissions, as well as land and water pollution associated with dairy cow farming.

The press statement explains:

Auckland-based startup Daisy Lab has developed a groundbreaking technology that produces dairy-identical proteins without cows, utilising yeast and a process called precision fermentation. This cutting-edge technology has been successfully employed in various industries, including the production of enzymes and flavourings for the food sector, but Daisy Lab believes that many of the dairy proteins can be produced this way. The first protein to scale was beta-lactoglobulin – the most common protein in cow’s whey. Daisy Lab is developing other dairy proteins, including high-value and rare lactoferrin.

Over the past twelve months, Daisy Lab has scaled their process from milligram volumes to the production of prototype consumer products such as ice cream, yoghurt, and cream cheese using beta-lactoglobulin.

This week marks another significant milestone for Daisy Lab on their journey towards scaling and commercializing their technology. They have obtained approval from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to scale their production to a total volume of up to 5,000L. This milestone enables Daisy Lab to proceed with building their first pilot facility.

Daisy Lab says similar research is underway overseas, posing a serious threat to our dairy industry. It wants to ensure New Zealand stays at the forefront of dairy protein innovation.

“What sets Daisy Lab apart from our global competitors is that we developed our strains and fermentation protocols with the downstream process in mind,” says Irina Miller, CEO and co-founder of Daisy Lab.

“Our fermentation liquid is uniquely suited to be processed using existing industrial dairy equipment, such as decanters, microfiltration and ultrafiltration membranes, and spray-dryers.”

Dr. Nicole Freed, Chief Science Officer and co-founder, who worked with the EPA to prepare and obtain approval, expressed her excitement about the future opportunities this milestone presents for Daisy Lab.

“We invested significant time and resources into preparing our application, and it’s gratifying to see our efforts pay off,” she says. Dr. Freed also acknowledged the support received from the EPA in navigating the legislation that regulates genetic technologies in New Zealand. “This is a crucial step forward for Daisy Lab and for precision fermentation technology in New Zealand.

Sources: Environmental Protection Authority and Daisy Lab.

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog