EIT Food awards €1.8m to research teams to commercialise cell-based meat
Three companies have received a total of €1.8 million from EIT Food to develop innovative products to reduce the cost of producing cell-based meat within the next two years.
EIT Food has awarded funding to three research teams to reduce the cost of cell culture media – one of the most significant barriers to commercialising cell-based meat. The teams were selected after their plans were originally put forward in EIT Food’s ‘Cultivated Meat Innovation Challenge’.
EIT Food, part of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, is a knowledge and innovation community dedicated to making a more sustainable food system.
Cell culture media – which feeds the cells as they grow in a cultivator – remains the most expensive element of cultivating meat. Each of the selected 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 cell-based meat companies can use to produce higher cell yields.
The funding will support the companies to pursue further market testing and commercialisation in order for these innovative products to reach European consumers.
The first company to be awarded the funding is German pharmaceutical company LenioBio. It uses rapidly growing plant cells to produce proteins within 48 hours – with its tech already being used in drug development. The company says that cell-based 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, salmon or other products, – using standard equipment without the need for advanced cell engineering expertise.
The UK’s 3D Bio-Tissues was awarded €612,000 as part of the funding. The start-up is a spin-out from Newcastle University that produces human corneas for eye transplants, and plans to scale up production of its existing formula, which is synthesised from the byproducts of agroforestry and other industries, by expanding its manufacturing facilities. The start-up also plans to develop an innovative media mix by combining this technology with other low-cost, food-grade ingredients that can be sold to cell-based meat companies as ready-to-use, recyclable products.
Finally, Israeli company BioBetter uses technology that ‘teaches’ tobacco plants to produce the growth factors cells need to reproduce. The company describes the plants as 'natural bioreactors’ as the protein can be extracted from the entire plant, which can then be harvested up to four times a year. It has already completed work on its pilot plant, with plans to scale up production this year and aim to begin supplying its product to cell-based meat companies in 2024.
Adam 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 GFI Europe, added: “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.”