WARF: P110012US02

Cost-Saving Dairy Protein Separation Method


Mark Etzel, Thatcher Root, Seyhun Gemili, Abhiram Arunkumar

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is seeking commercial partners interested in developing a process using charged ultrafiltration membranes to make purified dairy proteins suitable for use in infant formula and medical foods.

The method does not require new manufacturing equipment and may be readily implemented in dairy processing plants.
OVERVIEWPurified dairy proteins have special, value-added utility in processed foods and medical foods. For example, glycomacropeptide (GMP) is a protein present in cheese whey that is the only protein in nature that is safe to eat for individuals with phenylketonuria. Alpha-lactalbumin (ALA) is a protein found in milk and whey that is used in infant formula.

The value of purified dairy proteins is much greater than a mixture of the dairy proteins. For example, whey protein isolate is a mixture of whey proteins and sells for about $10/kg. GMP sells for about $70/kg and ALA for about $50/kg.

Chromatography methods traditionally have been used to manufacture GMP and ALA. However, the process is expensive, requires sophisticated manufacturing equipment that is new to the dairy industry, requires highly skilled labor, and is not environmentally friendly because it uses a lot of water and generates a lot of wastewater. The dairy industry has been slow to adopt chromatography for these reasons
THE INVENTIONUW–Madison researchers have discovered that charged ultrafiltration membranes can be used to make separated dairy proteins of chromatographic purity without the need for sophisticated chromatography equipment, water or buffers. The method makes use of ultrafiltration membrane systems common in essentially every dairy processing facility worldwide.

After modifying the pH of the protein solution, the charged ultrafiltration membrane repels the charged proteins that are not of interest, and allows the protein of interest to freely pass through. The researchers made the surprising discovery that membranes having a pore size rating of 150-500 kDa can be used to fractionate dairy proteins much smaller in size such as GMP, ALA and beta-lactoglobulin. Purity and yields up to 98 percent can be attained using the new method.
  • Dairy protein separation
  • Cost-saving medical food production, e.g., manufacturing GMP suitable for PKU patients
  • Lower overall costs while yielding high quality proteins of interest
  • Readily implemented in dairy processing plants
  • Requires no new equipment
  • Modifying the pH enables fine-tuned control
  • The larger pore size membranes allow high flow rates and energy savings while achieving excellent separation.
STAGE OF DEVELOPMENTHigh purity ALA, GMP, immunoglobulin G (IgG) and beta-lactoglobulin (BLG) have been isolated using this method.

The development of this technology was supported by WARF Accelerator. WARF Accelerator selects WARF's most commercially promising technologies and provides expert assistance and funding to enable achievement of commercially significant milestones. WARF believes that these technologies are especially attractive opportunities for licensing.
Contact Information
For current licensing status, please contact Mark Staudt at or 608-960-9845.
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