Why I Work for Prolacta Bioscience – Melinda J. Elliott

Melinda J Elliott, MD, FAAP
Chief Medical Officer, Prolacta Bioscience, Neonatologist, Pediatrix Medical Group

PW: When did you started at Prolacta:


PW: Your background educational/corporate:

I am a practicing neonatologist and have worked in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for over 30 years.

I began my medical career with residency training focused on pediatrics at the University of
Florida, where I became Chief Resident in Pediatrics and pursued fellowship training in
neonatology. I have held professional and clinical positions at The Johns Hopkins Hospital,
Franklin Square Hospital Center, The Herman and Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at
Sinai in Baltimore, and the Pediatrix Medical Group.

My passion for working in the neonatal environment led me to research the effects of an
Exclusive Human Milk Diet (EHMD) in the NICU and my clinical research is published in
academic journals. In my clinical work, I saw the benefits of an EHMD first-hand, specifically for
extremely low birth weight infants. I have also investigated breastfeeding practices among
moms of very low birthweight infants, including extremely low birthweight premature infants,
those born weighing less than 2.2 pounds.

PW: What attracted you to Prolacta Bioscience?

In 2011, one of my patients was a very sick, very premature baby who developed necrotizing
enterocolitis (NEC), a deadly disease that affects the intestines of premature infants. This baby
was in my NICU for eight and a half months, an extremely long time for any patient to be in the
hospital. Sadly, I did not win the battle to save this baby’s life.

After that experience, I felt there had to be something better than cow milk-based products to
feed very ill, premature infants who need more nutrition to grow than their mother’s milk alone
can provide. That is when I became aware of Prolacta’s 100% human milk-based fortifiers and
soon started using them in my NICU. I immediately saw a huge change in how well the babies
did. I was so impressed and passionate about the results that I was seeing in my neonatal
patients that I published a study on our results and met some of the people working at Prolacta.
I was inspired to find a way to help every premature or ill baby have access to Prolacta’s
lifesaving nutritional products and thus joined the company.

PW: What types of work do you get to do day-to-day that gives you great gratification?

As Prolacta’s Chief Medical Officer, I serve as the voice of the patient, and I have an opportunity
to help provide these life-saving human milk-based fortifiers and formulas to babies who need
them all over the world. For me, it is all about the chance to provide the best outcomes for sick
newborns and their families, no matter where they live.

PW: What would you like for professionals in the space to know about Prolacta and its work?

Hospitals adopting Prolacta’s EHMD see reduced complication rates, shorter lengths of stay,
and reduced costs. In fact, the latest research shows Prolacta’s fortifiers save NICUs up to
$3.4M annually, regardless of the type of institution. 1

Evidence also shows the sooner fortification with human milk-based fortifiers begins, the better
chances these fragile infants have of achieving healthy growth rates, as well as proper
development of the gut, lungs, brain, and body. 2,3,4,5

Prolacta sponsors the International Conference for Human Milk Science and Innovation
(ICHMSI), to be held next in Lisbon, Portugal, and awards the Ruth A Lawrence Award for
research in human milk science during the meeting. Prolacta supports the National Black
Nurses Association (NBNA), NICU Parent Network, Mended Little Hearts, Conquering CHD,
and a number of other parent and professional organizations.

With drug development in neonates being a huge challenge in the NICU space, how does it
make you feel that Prolacta’s nutritional products continue to be the driving force in how babies
are able to not only survive but thrive and go home?
I’m incredibly proud to be part of an organization that has changed the standard of care for
critically ill, premature infants by providing a proven alternative to cow milk-based fortifiers in the
NICU. 6,7,8

Prolacta maintains the industry’s highest quality and safety standards for screening, testing, and
processing donor milk. We have developed, validated, and implemented more than 20 tests to
screen donor milk to ensure the safety of the fragile infants we serve. When new challenges
arise, such as Zika virus or COVID 19, we implement new tests to screen for these diseases,
thus working to maintain these high standards.

PW: Anything we missed that you would like to add in as questions and answers?

I’d like to recognize the donor moms who make Prolacta’s EHMD possible for vulnerable infants
in hospitals around the world. These moms go to great lengths following stringent safety
precautions to ensure that critically ill infants receive the best possible nutrition during their
critical first weeks of life, which can have a lasting impact on their health and development. As
an organization, we are proud to offer our donors the option of compensation to recognize their
dedication and hard work. Without them, vulnerable infants would not have access to the
essential human milk-based nutrition they need to grow and thrive.


1. Swanson JR, Becker A, Fox J, et al. Implementing an exclusive human milk diet for preterm infants:
real-world experience in diverse NICUs. BMC Pediatr. 2023;23(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12887-
2. Bergner EM, Shypailo R, Visuthranukul C, et al. Growth, body composition, and neurodevelopmental
outcomes at 2 years among preterm infants fed an exclusive human milk diet in the neonatal
intensive care unit: a pilot study. Breastfeed Med. 2020;15(5):304-311. doi:10.1089/bfm.2019.0210
3. Hair AB, Bergner EM, Gollins LA, et al. Long-term outcomes at 2 and 5 years from the randomized
controlled trial: human milk cream as a supplement to standard fortification of an exclusive human
milk-based diet in VLBW infants. Poster presented at: Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting. April 24
– May 1, 2019. Baltimore, MD.
4. Huston RK, Lee ML, Rider ED, et al. Early fortification of enteral feedings for infants <1250 grams
birth weight receiving a human milk diet including human milk based fortifier. J Neonatal Perinatal
Med. 2019. doi:10.3233/NPM-190300
5. Huston RK, Markell AM, McCulley EA, Gardiner SK, Sweeney SL. Improving growth for infants ≤
1250 grams receiving an exclusive human milk diet. Nutr Clin Pract. 2018;33(5):671-678.
6. Abrams SA, Schanler RJ, Lee ML, Rechtman DJ. Greater mortality and morbidity in extremely
preterm infants fed a diet containing cow milk protein products. Breastfeed Med. 2014;9(6):281-285.
7. Cristofalo EA, et al. Randomized trial of exclusive human milk versus preterm formula diets in
extremely premature infants. J Pediatr. December 2013. 163(6):1592-1595. doi:
8. Sullivan S, Schanler RJ, Kim JH, et al. An exclusively human milk-based diet is associated with a
lower rate of necrotizing enterocolitis than a diet of human milk and bovine milk-based products. J
Pediatr. 2010;156(4):562-567.e1. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2009.10.040