Researchers awarded €1.8 million to commercialise cultivated meat

cultivated meat
Photo: Ajans Medialine/Pixabay

Three companies have received a total of €1.8 million from EIT Food to develop innovative products to reduce the cost of producing cultivated meat within the next two years.

EIT Food has awarded funding to research teams from the UK, Germany and Israel to slash the cost of cell culture media – one of the most significant barriers to commercialising this food – after their plans were originally put forward in the Cultivated Meat Innovation Challenge backed by international nonprofit the Good Food Institute (GFI) Europe.

The EIT Food funding will support these companies to pursue further market testing and commercialisation in order for these innovative products to reach European consumers.

Cultivated meat is the same as the beef, pork, chicken and seafood some people eat today but made in cultivators instead of by farming animals, and could generate up to 92% less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional meat.  Cell culture media – the nutrient-rich brew that feeds the cells as they grow in a cultivator – remains the most expensive element of cultivating meat.

Each of these companies will use ‘food grade’ cell-culture media – far less costly and energy-intensive to produce than the pharmaceutical-grade media used by biotech companies – and plans to develop commercial products that cultivated meat companies can use to produce higher cell yields.

The companies

German pharmaceutical company LenioBio was formed to find a method of developing proteins more quickly to address the west African Ebola outbreak in 2015. Their technology, using rapidly growing plant cells to produce proteins within 48 hours, is already used in drug development. They say cultivated meat companies can use it to produce any protein within two days at any scale, anywhere in the world – whether they are using it to produce beef or salmon – using standard equipment without the need for advanced cell engineering expertise. They now plan to create a spin-off company to begin a way of scaling and distributing their product globally.

The UK’s 3D Bio-Tissues Ltd, a spin-out from Newcastle University producing human corneas for eye transplants, plans to scale up production of their existing formula, which is synthesised from the byproducts of agroforestry and other industries, by expanding their manufacturing facilities. They also plan to develop an innovative media mix by combining this technology with other low-cost, food-grade ingredients that can be sold to cultivated meat companies as ready-to-use, recyclable products.

Israeli company BioBetter uses technology that ‘teaches’ tobacco plants to produce the growth factors cells need to reproduce – in a process similar to that which is already used to create vaccines and other medicines. The company describes the plants as ‘ecofriendly bioreactors’ because the protein can be extracted from the entire plant, which can then be harvested up to four times a year. They have already completed work on their pilot plant, plan to scale up production this year and aim to begin supplying their product to cultivated meat companies in 2024.

Adam M. Adamek, director of innovation at EIT Food, said: “This is such an exciting time for cultivated meat innovation, and we’re delighted to be awarding new funding to three of the most cutting-edge startups in the industry.

“The cost of cell-culture media is a significant barrier to scaling cultivated meat, and we hope that reducing this will bring us one step closer to seeing these innovations on the market – and to achieving a more healthy, sustainable food system.”

Seren Kell, senior science and technology manager at the Good Food Institute Europe, said: “It’s very exciting to see these innovative ideas turned into plans that could be brought to the market within the next two years, helping cultivated meat companies across the world to drive prices down and turn this more sustainable way of making meat into a commercial reality.

“This work could have a major impact on how quickly we can scale up production and create a more sustainable food system.”

Jim Cornall is editor of Future Food Today and publisher at Ayr Coastal Media. He is an award-winning writer, editor, photographer, broadcaster, designer and author. Contact Jim here.