Biotech start-up TurtleTree Labs raises more funds from global investors

World's first company using cells to make real milk secured $3.2m in seed funding from investors including Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal's investment vehicle

Fengru Lin and Max Rye with Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud during a visit to KBW Ventures’ Dubai offices. Courtesy KBW Ventures
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TurtleTree Labs, a Singapore-based biotechnology start-up, raised $3.2 million (Dh11.74m) in seed funding from global investors including Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal's KBW Ventures to accelerate work on cell-based milk production.

Green Monday Ventures, CPT Capital, Artesian and New Luna Ventures also participated in the funding round, TurtleTree Labs said in a statement on Thursday. KBW Ventures had also participated in a pre-seed round in January.

"This fresh round of funding will enhance our scale up development, bringing us one step closer to commercialisation,” Max Rye, co-founder of TurtleTree Labs, said.

The company, which is also backed by the Singapore government, is the world’s first-cell based biotechnology company to create real milk from mammalian cells, without the need for animals.

With support from the Singaporean authorities, the start-up received access to "an array of resources" that provided TurtleTree Labs with a "tremendous financial boost," allowing it to continue working during the Covid-19 pandemic, it said.

The start-up is focused on sustainable dairy production and supporting the government's long-term food diversification efforts.

"Now more than ever, people are waking up to the benefits of food technology and the massive positive implications of innovations in cellular agriculture,” Prince Khaled, who is also the chief executive of KBW Ventures, said.

The additional capital injected in TurtleTree labs is in line with KBW Ventures' strategy to invest in companies with transformative technologies and business models with potential for significant financial returns, while also delivering positive social impact. KBW Ventures' portfolio spans early-stage businesses to more established companies looking to expand into the Middle East.

TurtleTree Labs raised initial investment, which was led by New York and Hong Kong-based Lever VC, in 2019.

Over the past year, the start-up has grown its team to more than 20 full-time scientists and engineers.

"Our team is hungry, passionate and knows what it takes to accelerate to market," Fengru Lin, chief executive and co-founder of TurtleTree Labs, said. "I’m so inspired when even the most junior scientists are sharing ideas of cutting costs or identifying better suppliers.”