PFx Biotech, founded by Ali Osman, is pioneering a paradigm shift in the future of food. As Ali Osman wins a Business Worldwide CEO Award for “Most Innovative CEO in Advanced Nutrition Markets” we find out more about his inspiration and plans for the company. 

PFx  Biotech is committed to leveraging the potential of biology. Based in Porto, Portugal, and Ghent Belgium, the company utilises precision fermentation to develop solutions that not only enhance human health but also contribute positively to the environment.

The ultimate motivation 

PFx Biotech’s journey began with a child who suffered from acute allergy and his concerned parents. Ali Osman’s son was a healthy breast-fed baby, but when his parents started to introduce other foods including dairy products into his diet, they noticed his health go downhill. He started developing rashes, hives, sickness and discomfort, accompanied by lots of crying, and countless sleepless nights. Ali and his wife first thought it was a short term illness, but when his symptoms didn’t improve they sought medical advice. The doctor recognised common signs of a food allergy, and many tests followed. By the end of the analysis they discovered that, like at least 2% of the world’s children, their son was allergic to the proteins in cow’s milk. 

Ali and his wife began to do their own research, finding that around 15 million children have this allergy, which for some can be extremely serious. Symptoms vary from mild discomfort to severe cramps, sickness and burning skin. Ali immediately knew he had to do something about it, and drew upon his extensive experience in the food industry to set the wheels in motion. 

About precision fermentation

Precision fermentation is a cutting-edge technology that combines biology, genetics, and engineering to produce specific compounds, such as proteins, in a controlled and precise manner. Applications of precision fermentation are diverse, ranging from producing pharmaceuticals and vaccines to developing alternative proteins and ingredients for the food industry, such as enzymes and flavours, which are already in use commercially. PFx Biotech produces non-allergenic specialty proteins and protein-based ingredients, starting with human milk protein ingredients with identical structure to proteins found in breast milk, for use in advanced nutritional products.

A Leader with all the right ingredients

Ali Osman’s professional trajectory — from food scientist, corporate technology strategist to technical sales — reflects a career marked by innovation and impact. With extensive experience in food, biotech, product launches and corporate relations, he brings a wealth of expertise to PFx Biotech. 

His tenure at industry giants such as Arla, DSM, and Novozymes equipped him with the insights and networks necessary to navigate the complex landscape of product development. He’s spent many years advising big name companies and supporting them in bringing new products to market, perfectly placing him for success in his new venture. 

Meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

Precision fermentation meets the UN’s SDGs in several ways: 

  • GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
  • GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
  • GOAL 13: Climate Action

High-quality nutritious proteins with health promotion properties are essential for humans to lead a healthy life, which relates to the UN SDG3). The animal sources of protein are production intensive and cause immense greenhouse gas emissions speeding up climate change, which will, in turn, affect food productivity and security globally; therefore, producing proteins sustainably fits well to the responsible consumption and production goal (SDG12). The technology platform developed by PFx will enable cost-effective production of high-quality alternative human milk proteins with documented bioactivities; significantly promoting the development and innovation in the food and ingredient industries and supporting further investment in precision fermentation infrastructure globally (SDG9). 

This improves the affordability and accessibility to high-quality, sustainably produced proteins with minimum impact on the climate and environment. It’s estimated to reduce carbon emissions, use of water and land at least 20 times. PFx Biotech’s journey to develop and launch highly nutritious and health-promoting alternative human milk proteins using precision fermentation contributes strongly to SDG 13 (Climate)

From solo pursuit to collaboration 

What began as Ali’s singular pursuit swiftly evolved into a collaborative effort. Two co-founders who shared his vision and were impressed with his enthusiasm, joined the venture. Now there is a multi-disciplinary leadership team, encompassing R&D, Corporate, Regulations and Approvals. All the founders are driven by passion, technical knowledge and a desire to improve lives. The main priority is value creation, with a strong commercial target. They don’t believe in reinventing the wheel or doing research for the sake of it. Instead, they leverage an impressive network of industry leaders, scientists and groundbreaking academics, whilst also working closely with customers to understand their needs. 

Leadership style 

Ali’s approach is a visionary one, always seeing the long term and being motivated by wanting to make a difference in the world. He’s very results driven, setting clear milestones and having a robust short and long-term strategy, with a keen eye on budgets and a focus on putting customer needs first. He believes in giving everyone in the team space and flexibility, encouraging innovation and believing that the real magic happens when people are given the freedom to think for themselves. His leadership style combines important factors; a sound strategy, pragmatism and heart. 

The journey to market

For a new product to be brought to market it has to happen at the right time. Luckily there’s a movement towards sustainability and reversing climate change. 26% of greenhouse gas emissions are linked to agriculture and food production, and a big part of this comes from animal based food – particularly beef and dairy. The animal based food industry involves a complex supply chain, which on its own has a huge impact on the environment. With food production moving towards a more sustainable future, it created the perfect opportunity for Ali and his colleagues to get the business off the ground. 

Plans for the future of the company 

Looking ahead, Ali Osman envisions a future where PFx Biotech continues to innovate and make for a more sustainable food industry, whilst expanding its product portfolio. 

The company is currently working towards scaling up its production alongside securing FDA and EFSA approvals, among others; a notoriously long process that  takes a couple of years. Third parties are undertaking extensive tests, and the board plans to have the first approvals by 2026/2027, with two products going live by the following year.

Philosophy for business success

When you’re about to start any new venture, it’s important to follow your passion and try to make an impact. Be determined and don’t give up! Don’t settle for 2nd or 3rd place, if you’re going to do it, then go for first. When I really believe in something I’ll give it my all. In this industry it goes without saying that there will be obstacles. For me, those obstacles just spur me on and make me more determined. Resilience is key to success. There’s always a way, and always a Plan B.”  – Ali Osman

Follow the journey and keep up to date with progress here: