STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.
Did Bill Gates launch "artificial breast milk" during the U.S. baby formula shortage in 2022? No, that's not true: Although Gates' investment fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures is an investor in BIOMILQ, a startup that is developing lab-grown breast milk, the product has not been launched and its availability is unrelated to the nationwide shortage.
The claim appeared in a Facebook post on May 17, 2022. The post includes a graphic that reads:
Bill Gates is amazing. He launches artificial breast milk right as formula shortage hits America; he is the largest investor in 'V' and there's a pan__demic; he is the largest owner of land in America and there's a food crisis.
It's like he's clairvoyant.
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed May 18 17:44:09 2022 UTC)
This fact check will only address the first claim made in the Facebook post's graphic.
Breakthrough Energy Ventures, an investment fund that focuses on clean energy companies and is a part of Breakthrough Energy, which was founded by Gates in 2015, invested $3.5 million in BIOMILQ in 2020. Although BIOMILQ secured $21 million in Series A funding from investors, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the startup has not launched a product. According to its October 2021 statement announcing the Series A funding figure, the product has not reached full commercialization:
Utilizing proprietary technology, the company announced capability for producing human milk outside of the body this year. These additional funds will accelerate their process development and optimization, enabling full commercialization over the next 4 years.
In a CNN report published in March 2022, Leila Strickland, co-founder and chief science officer of BIOMILQ, said the product is still three to five years away from being brought to market. The article continued:
First, the startup needs to grow mammary cells at a much larger scale -- and at a lower cost. BIOMILQ also needs to convince regulators that the product is safe for babies, a task that is especially challenging for a new food category like lab-grown human milk products.
'There isn't really a regulatory framework that exists,' Strickland says.
In an email to Lead Stories sent on May 18, 2022, a BIOMILQ spokesperson echoed Strickland's statement above, saying that the startup does not have a product on the market and will not for three to five years.
A Breakthrough Energy Ventures spokesperson told Lead Stories in an email sent on May 19, 2022, that "this rumor is false."
There is no evidence that Gates is the cause of the nationwide baby formula shortage. As explained in other Lead Stories fact checks, collected here, experts have determined that inflation, supply-chain interruptions and a recall of baby formula products by Abbott, one of the country's largest formula producers, have all contributed to the shortage.
Other fact checks debunking claims related to Gates can be found here.
2022-05-27T23:21:37Z 2022-05-27T23:21:37ZAdded response from Breakthrough Energy Ventures spokesperson.