Hilal Gul said her daughter Hazel was the inspiration for starting MySteM Biotechnologies.
Gul, an Edmonton-based biomedical scientist, and founder of MySteM, said while she was pregnant with Hazel, she did a lot of reading and research around the importance of breastmilk.
That’s when she read about research from Australia about the embryonic-like stem cells in human breast milk.
“This intrigued me actually to establish my stem biotech and do research on colostrum, which is very different from the breast milk; it’s the first milk,” Gul said.
Colostrum is a nutrient-rich, milk-like fluid produced by female mammals during pregnancy. It’s filled with immune, growth and tissue repair factors.
She realized that the crucial stem cell components in colostrum could have significant agriculture applications. Especially for immune functions, given the growing concern over the use of antibiotics in livestock.
“The livestock industry is experiencing pressure to curb antibiotic use in farm animals to stop the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Both the FDA and Health Canada took strict measures to restrict the use of antibiotics in the industry,” said Gul.
“Therefore, safe and powerful strategies are needed to enhance livestock health that can minimize or replace antibiotic use
That’s how MyStem Biotechnologies began. They provide colostrum-derived stem cell products for agriculture and regenerative medicine applications.
Stem cell and livestock health
Gul said that the colostrum-derived stem cells are known to have microbial properties and they promote anti-inflammatory function and health growth.
Her work started with human medicine applications because she’s worked for most of her career on that side of medicine. Gul saw that at the same time they could solve this growing problem in Canada’s livestock industry.
The use of an oral or intravenous colostrum injection will help prevent disease in animals by stimulating the immune system, just like it does in the days after a baby is born.
So far, the reception they’ve received in Alberta’s livestock industry has been positive, Gul said.
This is an actual natural product, Gul said. Producers are excited about that.
“They’re really excited and they’re very open to the idea because it’s farming naturally with colostrum. Unfortunately, we are not using it properly,” she said.
Biotech = Research and finance intensive
Gul said it’s a privilege to be a scientific entrepreneur. It costs a lot and “has a long gestation period” before seeing returns on an investment.
MySteM took part in the Alberta Yield program to take their product and ideas they’ve spent years developing out to the market.
“We are ready to go to the market with our livestock colostrum; there are stem cell products for research use, but not for agricultural use,” Gul said.
“Our prototype for a livestock application is ready to test in animal models, and we are seeking a partnership to fund the developments needed to move to next stage.”
Participating in an arena with other entrepreneurs and the mentoring they’re receiving from industry experts is helping them move closer to that goal. They see a market in most livestock and can work with producers all over North America.
And the journey has been one that still has a direct connection to her daughter Hazel.
“I relate all of my inventions and the establishment of my company to the birth of my daughter,” Gul said.
That’s also sparked in interest in science for the now-eight-year-old.
She goes to the lab with Gul or her father on weekends to participate and learn about the science.
“I really believe that she’s already chosen her path,” Gul said.