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Olivia Ogilvie, CEO and co-founder of Opo Bio,
Olivia Ogilvie

In this instalment of The Cell Base's ‘Start-up spotlight,' we speak to Olivia Ogilvie, CEO and co-founder of Opo Bio, an Auckland, New Zealand-based B2B ingredient company that develops cell lines from high-health status New Zealand livestock to be used in biomanufacturing.

What inspired the establishment of Opo Bio, and what factors led the company to focus on developing primary muscle cell lines for cell-based meat production?

Opo Bio was founded in July 2022 by myself, Laura Domigan and Vaughan Feisst, based on research developed in Domigan’s lab at The University of Auckland. All of our founders are scientists and were involved in a large research project funded by New Zealand's Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Singapore's A*Star (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) in 2020. We saw the need for reliable cell lines for both academic and industrial cell-based research firsthand and so we started Opo Bio.

What unique benefits do Opo Bio's primary muscle cell lines, Opo-Oink and Opo-Moo, offer for manufacturers, and how do you envision the start-up's impact on the future of cell-based meat production?

Opo-Moo was the first product we launched, building on the team’s expertise in bovine satellite cell isolation and culture. Satellite cells are committed to making muscle, and we believe that this results in a cell mass that is more consistent both in terms of growth, flavour profile and nutritional profile.

We currently focus on livestock cell lines – cow (Angus and Wagyu), sheep and pig (Opo-Oink). We source our tissue from our partner farms in Aotearoa New Zealand. We ensure traceability and high quality in every step, from the animals we use to our bioreactors. We provide our customers with the relevant information to include in their regulatory applications.

We currently focus on adipocytes (fat cells), satellite cells and fibroblasts – which can be used by our customers to grow food or produce products like collagen. We study both the short- and long-term growth kinetics of our cells and have adapted them to serum-free media and growth in adherent and suspension formats.

What are the essential technologies and capabilities that make up Opo Bio's services in supplying primary cells and cell lines for commercial use in cell-based meat production?

Our technology platform starts with our technical expertise and access to high-quality primary cells sourced from tissue from our partner farms. Our team has a lot of experience with a wide range of cell types – outside those that have typically been used in biotechnology and biomanufacturing.

At the moment, our core tech is the generation of functional cell lines that can be used to produce commercially viable cell-based products. These lines are made from cells that can replicate reliably and beyond their 'normal' limits, and are adapted to serum-free and growth in whatever bioreactor format our customers need. We also profile the nutritional content and genetic stability of our cell lines.

Has Opo Bio encountered any challenges on its journey so far? How did the company navigate and overcome these obstacles?

Like all companies in this area, the immature global regulatory environment for cell-based meat means that we don’t necessarily know the most important data to be collecting on inputs. Our approach is to be thorough in our data collection.

Start-up spotlight: Opo Bio

Collaboration with the scientific community is crucial in advancing cell-based meat technologies. Can you shed light on Opo Bio's engagement with researchers and scientists in the field of cultivated meat production?

The first products we launched were primary cells for research use. We have now shipped these to customers all over the world! We recently got back from the US where we visited Prof. Amy Rowart’s lab at UCLA – it is so exciting to talk to young researchers in this area where there are still so many fundamental discoveries to be made! Collaboration is at Opo Bio’s core and we believe it will underpin the industry's success.

What exciting developments or plans does Opo Bio have in the pipeline for the future?

We plan to release our first cell lines this year and to begin working on new products through our cell line development service offering – watch this space!

Start-up spotlight: Opo Bio

Phoebe Fraser

17 June 2024

Start-up spotlight: Opo Bio

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