Belgian industrial biotech innovator Inbiose secures €15 million from EIB, Source: © Caroline Martin/EIB

EIB gives 15 million euros to Ghent biotech company synthesising breast milk sugars

EIB gives 15 million euros to Ghent biotech company synthesising breast milk sugars

Babies need these sugars to strengthen their immune system

The European Investment Bank (EIB) will provide 15 million euros of funding to Ghent-based biotech company Inbiose. The deal was signed on 14 July and the money is part of the 540-billion-euro rescue package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The EIB wants to strengthen promising homegrown tech companies and Inbiose is a perfect candidate as they have found a way to imitate breast milk sugars that are not found in powdered milk.

Strengthening babies’ immune systems and the European economy

At the beginning of this year, the federal government in Belgium drew up a list of projects vying for financing from the 5.95 billion euros allocated to Belgium from the European recovery fund. A significant portion of the money is invested in research and development, and this is where Inbiose comes in as one of the companies set to benefit.

They are a biotech SME based in Ghent’s Zwijnaarde’s technology park and are focused on a novel production process for the synthesis of human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), functional sugars with a wide range of applications, primarily used in infant nutrition.

More than 100 different HMO structures are found in breast milk and Inbiose has found a way to produce six of them, and that is a big deal, as they are not found in powdered milk.

Generally, breast milk protects babies from infection and inflammation, helps the development of the immune system, promotes healthy bacteria in the gut and positively affects brain development. Babies who are not breastfed need these sugars, especially in the first three months, to strengthen their immune systems.

CEO of Inbiose Wim Soetaert explained that so far the company has copied six of these sugars and is hard at work on reproducing the rest, to make powdered milk resemble the real thing as much as possible.

The EIB’s financing will support Inbiose plans for heavy investments in R&D and production capacity, as they are one of the few companies capable of producing HMOs on a commercial scale.

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