Announcing our bold, new campaign: "Cellular Agriculture for the Public Good."

The Idiot’s Guide to our Research Portfolio

Published December 15, 2021 | Updated March 30, 2022 | Stephanie Bailey

I have a confession.

Even after a year with New Harvest, I still struggle to wrap my head around what all of our 27 research grantees are up to. So many amazing projects, so little time to keep track of them all. I figure if I’m struggling, you might be too!

So I created a bit of a cheat sheet, where I organized our current grantees’ research projects according to some of the big questions they seek to answer. Questions like:

Of course, this list is far from perfect and probably could be reconfigured a million ways given all the overlap. But, who knows, maybe it’ll give you a new perspective on how far reaching our research portfolio truly is. Or maybe it’ll inspire you to dive deeper into a project or two.

More than anything, I hope it fills you with a sense of pride to be part of a community that’s truly fuelling the innovation engine of cellular agriculture.

Q: How can we make cell ag better for people and the planet?

A. Make it healthier
Cultivated meat doesn’t just have to mimic existing meat products, it can enhance them! Andrew is tailoring the nutritional profile of cultured meat.

A. Reduce waste
Three grantees are focusing on how to cut waste out of the supply chain in cell ag. Both Kai and Ted are finding ways to use recycled materials—like agricultural byproducts or plant waste—as low cost cell culture media! Outside of the wet lab, Dawne is developing a computational model to help companies identify ways to limit waste, reusing resources wherever possible.

A. Create cell lines of endangered species
Mollusks (e.g. conch, oyster) are important for many coastal communities but are in danger of becoming extinct. Vanessa is culturing molluscan cells to provide a more sustainable option.

A. Make animal-free scaffolds
Four grantees are focused on making animal-free scaffolds, the framework on which cultivated meat is grown. Irfan is developing a seaweed-based scaffold, while Rick is growing hot dogs on plant-based scaffolds and Jordan is growing beef on spinach leaves! Meanwhile, Shravya is creating scaffolds from edible food additives like starch or pullulan.


Q: Ground beef is all well and good, but how can we create thick cuts of marbled meat?

A. 3D print it!
3D printing allows us to layer fat and muscle cells to create complex structures. Jannis is 3D printing cultured meat to mimic the texture and composition of meat, and Alexis is using a hybrid bioprinting approach to speed up the process!

A. Let cells do the hard work
Frea is engineering cells that self-assemble to form the complex patterns of muscle and fat to make meat.

A. Harness the power of electricity to grow cells
Sophie is tapping into the naturally occurring voltage on the surface of cells, using bioelectricity to instruct them to grow into complex 3D structures.

A. Master the art of fat production
Fat is a key contributor to meat’s texture and flavor, but it’s notoriously difficult to grow in a lab. Luckily, we have three grantees who are on it! Stephanie is perfecting the marbling of fat and muscle found in steak, while Varsha is accelerating fat production through stem cells and John is figuring out a simplified way to make fat more cheaply.


Q: How can we make cultured meat more affordable?

A. Design more efficient growth factors
Growth factors (think: instructions for cells) account for more than 90 percent of cell culture media costs. Mia is developing cost-effective growth factors that are more potent, long-lasting, and easier to produce.

A. Mimic cells’ natural growing conditions
In the body of an animal, cells are very crowded. By adding ingredients to media, Ricardo is replicating this natural state to speed up cell growth and decrease the cost of production.

A. Optimize media composition for bioreactors
Allison is looking at how media composition and bioreactors interact in order to define ideal bioreactor parameters to maximize output at an industrial scale.

A. Make growing conditions species-specific
Growing fish cells in bovine serum isn’t very efficient—yet it’s one of the only options available. Cameron is developing fish-specific growth factors to hopefully outperform the alternatives.


Q: How can we get to market faster?

A. Prioritize safety
Samuel is identifying potential harmful bacteria in the production process to anticipate the demands of regulatory compliance and empower companies to mitigate risk.

A. Develop open source hardware
Jernej Vajda, Boštjan Vihar and Luka Banovic want to speed up research by designing an open source bioreactor that is highly customizable. Once ready, the schematics will be published online so others can build it and build on it.

A. Harness the power of artificial intelligence
Research is an incredibly time-consuming, laborious process, but machine learning can help speed things up! Zachary is creating a program to help future researchers quickly determine the best media formula for their specific purposes.

A. Don’t stop production
The actual process of cultivating cells is typically done in batches, requiring frequent shutdowns. Lily is developing a hands-free cell harvesting method to allow for continuous bioprocessing.

About the Authors
Stephanie Bailey headshot
Stephanie Bailey is New Harvest’s Development Manager.