Milis Bio CEO Michael Sheehan was awarded Best Young Entrepreneur by his city of Cork . Sheehan got the idea to develop sweet proteins while studying neuroscience at University College Cork (UCC) and co-founded the company with UCC Principal Investigator Dr. Paul Young . The brain perceives taste due to binding of molecules to taste receptors. Proteins that register as sweet to taste buds are naturally found in a few tropical plants . Milis Bio is engineering proteins to bind to taste receptors using a technique called directed evolution . In directed evolution, variations are introduced into the genetic sequence that codes for the protein of interest and the experimenter selects proteins with certain characteristics, like ability to bind to sweet taste receptors . Sheehan describes his method of selecting their proteins as a “tongue in a petri dish” in his talk at RebelBio’s demo day (2016) .
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Milis Bio has developed a protein-based sugar substitute that is produced from a cultivated organism . This sugar substitute is low calorie and because their product adds protein content, it will initially target fitness foods .
Other flavors Milis Bio are working on include umami to replace Monosodium Glutamate, neutral pH sour, salty and proteins that block bitter taste for medications . Milis Bio claims that the protein characteristics can be changed to meet the demands in food processing such as heat resistance, pH tolerance, water or oil solubility .
The company began in the start-up accelerator IndieBio EU funded by SOSV where they received seed funding. Milis Bio participated in and recieved seed funding from the Startupbootcamp Foodtech program in Rome . Milis Bio has also received funding from RebelBio, Terra and a government grant from Horizon 2020 .
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