Reflections from Isha
From the very beginning, I knew that I wanted New Harvest to do science. When I became Executive Director, however, there was very little money in the bank. I spent long hours wondering how to rub our grassroots-donated nickels together to make real change in the world.
Two years in, after leveraging external opportunities to kick off the cell ag industry via the founding of Perfect Day and Clara Foods, our donations were reaching six digits. Against the advice of nonprofit advisors (who said we needed at least eight digits in the bank), New Harvest started funding research in late 2015. Not just any research, but multi-year, wet laboratory research at established institutions. I knew that we weren’t going to see cell-cultured meat on store shelves without establishing a discovery ecosystem for cellular agriculture.
We funded our first researcher, the adventurous Abi Glencross, in late 2015. It wasn’t an easy experience for her, and by early 2017 we closed the project. I learned a lot—namely, that our research initiatives needed expert direction.
That’s when Kate came in.
In the three years since Kate joined New Harvest as Research Director, she has transformed a prototyped version of our research program into a full-fledged research community that generates original publications, turns researchers into technical hires at cell ag companies, and fosters technical co-founders.
Along the way, Kate has turned cellular agriculture from a fringe idea met with skepticism within the scientific community to a scientific pursuit supported by many established academics.
Kate’s approach to being Research Director was informed by a passion for nurturing scientific minds coupled with an ever-learning, studious, and fundamentally human-centered approach to management. She stands apart from many PhDs in that her work stems primarily from a focus on the human experience. It is that focus—so embodied by Kate—that leads to good science.
– Isha Datar, Executive Director of New Harvest
Reflections from Kate
New Harvest has been an amazing journey. When I joined back in the summer of 2017, fresh out of the lab, I decided to focus on two key metrics to accelerate the field: publications and graduations.
I built an application process for our Research Fellowship Program designed to optimize the chance of successful research outcomes based on these metrics. This process emphasized the student/professor team and commitment to cellular agriculture.
As the field grew, new types of researchers needed funding: senior engineering students, undergraduates, and postdoctoral researchers. I designed programs to add their talent to the mix—launching our seed grant program and postdoctoral fellowship. As our application count increased, we were able to expand and balance our research portfolio to include projects in all four building blocks of cultured meat: cells, scaffolds, media, and bioreactors.
Now, New Harvest funds 14 full-time research fellows. With the addition of seed grantees, dissertation award winners, and researchers on experimental projects, New Harvest supports over 20 individuals. Our researchers are from around the world: the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, Slovenia, and Germany.
We’ve already had two graduations, and there are more on the horizon. I could never have imagined how much New Harvest’s research program would grow. It’s been such an honor to work with such driven, passionate, and foresightful individuals, and to join such a vibrant community.
Next week, I am moving on from New Harvest to join the cellular agriculture community at large. I will be venturing into the for-profit side, starting Helikon Consulting: an alternative proteins and cellular agriculture technical talent sourcing and consulting organization. I am looking forward to spending some time working with proteins (where I spent most of my PhD) in addition to cell-based meat.
It has been gratifying to see the alternative protein, cellular agriculture, and cell-based meat space develop. I look forward to supporting it further.
I have learned so much from Isha in the past three years, and have grown in ways I couldn’t have imagined. My time with the New Harvest team—Isha, Erin, Lanto, Meera, Jeremiah, Michela, and Emily—has been truly transformational. I can’t wait to watch New Harvest continue its evolution.
And so, with that—it’s not so much a “goodbye” as much as a “see you around.” I hope to join you all at New Harvest 2021!
– Kate, founder of Helikon Consulting and former Research Director at New Harvest
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