The alternative protein market has seen a vast increase in commercial interest, gaining greater impact than ever before. However, for cultured meat products to become a longstanding success, animal-free production, healthy management of growth factors, design and supply lines must be scaled up in a cost-effective yet optimised and sustainable way.
The approval of foetal bovine serum(FBS)-free growth media was undoubtedly a milestone in the cultured meat sector. Streamlined cell culture development and the use of animal component-free cell media (ACF) in place of FBS could help make alternative protein products more cost-effective and sustainable.
Alongside this, optimising collaboration is vital for industry progression. Where once, a single company was trying to finesse cell line development, bioprocess, equipment design, food sensory and more, now leaning on the power of partnership creates more opportunity and strength.
Here, I’ve focussed on three impressive companies forging the path for serum-free media growth factors. As well as those harnessing the collaborative nature I believe is crucial for future success and growth in the market.
With support from SOSV, Zero Carbon Capital, and Marinya Capital, Multus Media has recently announced a further 9.5 million USD in Series A funding to continue developing their animal serum alternative for use in cultured meat. Proliferum M serum is formulated by a proprietary protein mixture alongside other ingredients, combined to support growth for mammalian cells with the potential to support a range of different cell lines.
Alongside this, the company has also launched its latest ingredient product Vitronectin – a protein present naturally in animals. Benefits include the ability to use with growth media for cultivated meat, aiding attachment and speeding up the growth and proliferation of cells. Alongside this, it increases cell growth and is certified for food-safe manufacturing ISO22000. There is the added benefit of a lower price bracket, too, as Multus aims to tackle the cultivated meat price gap by creating production capabilities at scale by opting to utilise readily scalable and affordable technology in precision fermentation.
Multus CEO, Cai Linton, promises an exciting future for its place in the market, commenting in a recent article:
[This] solution will last twice as long as existing serum formulations, saving alternative protein developers money and ensuring optimum efficacy in the cell growth process as serum replacement is no longer needed.”
Canada-based Future Fields is led by YC alumni with husband and wife team Matt Anderson-Baron and Jalene Anderson-Brown. Their creativity brought to life the Future Fields EntoEngine™, an approach that uses fruit flies instead of giant steel tanks. Aside from reduced production costs and a lower environmental footprint, fruit flies also have superior machinery vs bacteria or yeast cells to facilitate complex protein production.
Fruit flies are pretty low maintenance, requiring far less water and food and low-budget accommodation. That’s especially true when compared to the expensive stainless steel bioreactors required for precision fermentation”
Says Future Fields co-founder Matt Anderson Baron.
Most recently, the company announced an impressive $11.2M USD funding from a number of notable VCs and government contracts, with plans to help facilitate research across the cell therapy and biopharmaceutical industries.
Bright Biotech’s exploration of animal-free media possibilities from genetically-engineered tobacco plants is proving inspiring with laden potential. Whilst we know that cell-based meat in itself is a great step towards more sustainable protein solutions, we also know that the alternative protein sector will not be fully sustainable until we can operate completely free from animal material.
Whilst its media developments offer a high yield (roughly 2-5g per kg of leaf material) and a high biomass of c.1MT per year for a 10mX10m plot. Delivery is consistent thanks to the absence of gene silencing, position and epigenetic effects in the chloroplast genetic system, offering unchanging levels of expression and a safer downstream process without harmful endotoxins or viral and prion contaminants.
With its dedication and early hold in the use of chloroplast technologies, Bright Biotech offer huge potential cost savings, as the price of plant-based growth factors used to expand animal cells enables them to expand and transform into animal flesh.
As these growth factors lead to exponential growth in the meat substance's mass, this means cost reductions could go a long way to tackling overheads, especially once cultured meat factories enter mass production.
Investors are evermore cautious about pouring capital into two companies in the same market with a similar mission and goal. This, alongside the ongoing turmoil with global economic affairs, is resulting in consolidation as a key theme for the future of success in cultured meat.
Despite potential bottlenecks with cost, scalability and sustainability, challenges can be overcome through the power of industry collaboration between different specialist businesses.
A great example of this is Eridia, a joint venture between Buhler and Zeta. These two leading pharma and food engineering players had a shared goal – to provide companies in the sector with expertise across both food and feed bioprocessing solutions, spanning feasibility assessment to project execution.
Steakholder and Umami, for example, are using a $1Million grant from the Singapore Israel Industrial R&D Foundation to scale up production processes for cultivated fish products, starting with eel and grouper, and currently has a hybrid grouper prorotype in the works.
Industry collaborations are a critical aspect of our long-term business strategy”
Said Yair Ayalon, Steakholder Foods' VP of Business Development. By using Steakholder’s 3D bio-printing technology and bio-inks customised for Umami cells, following a unique deep-tech process to create a hybrid grouper product. Steakholder Foods will first select optimal cells from Umami Meats to develop bio-ink that will produce the flaky texture most associated with cooked fish. The 3D printer will then be used to cut the detailed digital design.
The collaboration between innovators in the sector has the potential to create superior products by combining each company's specialism, meaning shared resources and cost and access to new markets for both parties. By combining this knowledge, the companies can assist start-ups in the sector, resulting in a vast reduction in their cost of production processes.
With continued scientific innovation and global funding input across Europe and America, the future is bright and approaching fast. Achieving sustainability and profit requires progress, and potential collaboration, across the strengths of the market in the cell-cultured meat industry. For an industry set to be worth $248 million (USD) by 2026, there are big things to come for strategic start-ups in cultured meat.
Are you interested in learning more about any of these companies, or discussing the topics covered here in some more depth? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on LinkedIn to chat!
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