Extracellular launches licence-free cell banks to support cultivated meat research

Photo: Extracellular

Low-cost, licence-free cell banks developed for use by the burgeoning cultivated meat sector have been announced by Extracellular, a CDMO dedicated to cultivated meat. The cell banks are stocked with primary cells relevant to cultivated meat research, which have been created with funding from InnovateUK and developed in collaboration with Multus.

Currently, animal primary cells relevant for cultivated meat research are expensive, often of poor quality, and come with limited information regarding their performance or provenance. Their use is also limited by licensing or commercial agreements that can impede innovative technologies and approaches in this nascent field.

The cell bank initiative by Extracellular aims to support early-stage companies and researchers in this sector by providing high-quality animal primary cells that are suitable for cultivated meat research and development, up to 90% cheaper than other cell line providers, and free from licensing restrictions.

The cell banks initially offer cells isolated from the fat, muscle, and bone marrow tissues of cow, pig and lamb. Information on the cells’ provenance, from the age, breed, and sex of the animal, to the passage numbers and expected population doubling times, will be included with each batch. More animal species and tissue types will be made available in the future.

Will Milligan, co-founder and CEO of Extracellular, said: “Primary cells are the building blocks for cultivated meat research, but good cells are too hard to access for many researchers in industry and academia. By bringing our cell banks to market, we hope more researchers can develop new cell lines, media formulations, processes and technologies, without restrictions from licensing or commercial agreements.”

The project also involved extensive collaboration with Multus, a company developing low-cost growth media formulations and ingredients for the cultivated meat industry. Multus provided protocols and key materials to de-risk the cell bank project in addition to independent quality control for cell identification, cryopreservation, and growth characterisation.

Cai Linton, CEO of Multus, said: “I am excited to see the impact that this collaboration with Extracellular will have on the cultivated meat industry in the UK. Multus looks forward to working with academic researchers and cultivated meat companies to develop innovative technologies that will drive this industry forward using the cell bank as an enabling resource.”

This work has been funded by an InnovateUK grant to generate cell banks of primary cells relevant to the cultivated meat industry. Extracellular worked with local farmers and the University of Bristol’s Veterinary School to obtain tissue samples.

Reducing costs

Seren Kell, senior science and technology manager at the Good Food Institute Europe, said: “Increasing the availability of cell lines will be crucial to help researchers and companies develop the innovations needed to bring down the cost of this more sustainable way of making meat. The creation of a licence-free cell bank is exactly the kind of collaborative approach needed to help the UK accelerate this growing field, while the involvement of farmers demonstrates how agricultural communities can benefit from a transition to sustainable proteins.”

As part of the cell bank initiative, Extracellular will work with other organisations to provide an open and collaborative platform focused on facilitating effective data sharing of cultivated meat research.

Esha Datar, executive director at New Harvest, said: “Despite the venture capital and startup environment, there are many fundamental aspects of cellular agriculture that can (and must) be solved collectively. The efforts of Will Milligan and the team at Extracellular to share resources at low cost to equip and empower researchers to build a body of work is commendable leadership. In the near term, we need to go beyond traditional academia to build foundational work in this space; this type of initiative from the private sector is exactly what cellular agriculture needs. We need a culture of sharing and open science if we are to move this field forward. Too much depends on it.”

Kiren Baines, co-founder and CSO of Extracellular, said: “We wanted to create cell banks that came with an extensive data pack, and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve characterised our cell banks to make sure researchers understand the quality of the cells we’re providing. Our banks also allow researchers to compare species, tissue types, and even tissues from the same animal to understand the details behind delivering a fantastic cultivated meat product.”

Cell banks will be made available from July 2023.

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.