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Hanging Out with Muufri at the Synbio Axlr8r in Cork, Ireland

Published May 29, 2014 | Updated June 16, 2021 | Isha Datar

Isha, Ryan, and Perumal

I had a blast in Ireland this past week visiting New Harvest community members Ryan Pandya (centre) and Perumal Gandhi (right) at the Synthetic Biology Accelerator in Cork.

They’ve created Muufri, an organization developing milk in cell culture rather than in animals, in an attempt to end intensive industrial dairy farming.

Ryan and Perumal met through New Harvest. I had met them both at different times, but they had independently told me that they wanted to produce milk without cows. When I came across the opportunity with SynBio Axlr8r, I thought – I know two guys who want to use synthetic biology to help animals! I introduced them to one another (online) and the three of us prepared an application, which was due four days from our first introduction. A combination of a great idea, Ryan and Perumal’s scientific talents, our desire to help animals through technology, and New Harvest’s vast network and audience – we ended up winning! On April 22, 2014 we found out that there would be $30,000 in funding, laboratory space and mentorship for the summer in order to develop this idea.

The following month was spent doing a lot of work while in three different cities, three different countries, two very different time zones.

May 20th was a crazy day. It was the first day the three of us ALL MET IN PERSON. I think this is the new normal. Meeting and developing relationships with people online such that when you meet them in person it’s like you’re old friends. It really did feel that way, the other people working around us commented that we all seemed like old friends, not that we had met in person just a few days prior.

Ryan and Perumal are real superstars and turned out to have much more in common than was expected. Their families are both from the same province in India, they’re both vegans, and they’re both born in the same year! They’re also excellent vegan cooks, which turns out to be a huge asset in Ireland, where there aren’t too many vegan options out there.

I hope to catch up on their progress again in the near future. Good work Ryan and Perumal! We wish you the best.


About the Authors
Isha Datar is Executive Director at New Harvest