The world’s largest food company may be shelling out as much as $110 million for an experimental milk allergy test.
Nestle is paying DBV Technologies $10 million upfront for the rights to an impressive-sounding testing kit that can detect a cow’s milk allergy, and they’ll fork over the remaining $100 million (plus royalties) if it’s successfully developed.
And yes, this is the same Nestle that makes Kit-Kat bars. Surprisingly, it’s not the first time Nestle execs have expressed an interest in food allergies. In 2015 the company bought a stake in pharmaceutical developer Seres Therapeutics Inc. If the milk allergy test is successful, Nestle’s Health Science division estimates it could generate more than $10 billion in annual sales.
DBV Technologies — inventors of the cow’s milk protein allergy test kit, and the company behind the “Peanut Patch” and “Milk Patch” — reported that cow’s milk allergies affect 5-15% of babies and toddlers with many others experiencing symptoms that suggest they, too, may be allergic to milk. It’s difficult to test for a cow’s milk allergy so many parents simply choose to eliminate dairy from their children’s diet, which isn’t good news for companies like Nestle that sell milky products like chocolate bars, ice cream, and baby formula.
The innovative skin patch test will make it much easier to determine if a child has a cow’s milk allergy. If they don’t have an allergy, there’s no need for them to eliminate dairy from their diets. If they do, Nestle will benefit from selling their allergy-friendly products, like whey-free formulas. Win-win for Nestle, but admittedly still a huge win for parents wondering if their child has a milk allergy.
An older versions of the milk allergy test test used to be sold in French pharmacies in the early 2000s but DBV wasn’t allowed to market it or export it, and the company lacked the funds to develop it further. Nestle has the cash to fund extensive clinical trials, although the new and improved testing kit probably won’t be available for the public until 2021.