Milk bank scientist from St Albans wins national award

The Hearts Milk Bank team.

The Hearts Milk Bank team. - Credit: Archant

A scientist has won an award for her work setting up a milk bank to help sick babies.

Dr Natalie Shenker, of Tavistock Close, St Albans, won a Gold Award of £10,000 at MassChallenge UK, which awards start-ups.

She set up Hearts Milk Bank in collaboration with Gillian Weaver, a milk banking expert, to provide donor breast milk to sick babies in hospitals across London and the south east of England. The donated milk will help improve the chances of survival for babies who are premature or ill.

The milk bank, which was set up last year, was one of six start-ups chosen for the Gold Award out of 13,000 entrants.

Dr Shenker said: “I was tremendously excited and it was the first time all of the milk bank team were together because without a premise we’re all on our own and occasionally coming to meetings.”

She is also hoping to collaborate with her former supervisor at Imperial College London, James Flanagan, on breast cancer research, which was the topic of her PhD.

The money from the award will go towards a vehicle to transport the frozen milk to hospitals.

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She said: “It won’t buy a whole vehicle, which was one of the extra costs that we haven’t budgeted for, Without the vehicle we’re excited to be working with the blood bikers, who are part of SERV [Service by Emergency Rider Volunteeers].

“They are based in Hertfordshire and they have a group of volunteer motorbikers who collect milk and blood and lots of things for the NHS. They’re amazing.

“They’re going to be doing most of our picks ups and drop offs but we’ll be able to do more deliveries once we have a vehicle.”

The milk bank team are looking to secure premises within Hertfordshire, and are hoping to be operational within the next two months.