For the past year, we have been running the cellular agriculture Science Engine, a partnership between Robert Downey Jr.’s FootPrint Coalition, Experiment.com, and New Harvest.
Science Engine is a new style of funding research. It’s a combination of fast grants and crowdfunding, with each focus area spearheaded by Science Leads who have a unique vantage point in their field.
Science Engine just won a Falling Walls Science Breakthrough of the Year, for Science and Innovation Management, and we’re so happy to be part of its inaugural run. It’s important that we seek novel ways to fund science and technology for the public good. As we’ve witnessed managing our Fellowship Program and other grantee programs – so much of a technology’s impact is dictated by the way funding is deployed.
We’re honored to be sharing the first seven Cellular Agriculture Science Engine projects and grantees that we’ve supported through this innovative program.
🥩 3D Printing a Steak with Lab-Grown Cow Cells
Lindsey Huff, Rosalyn D. Abbott, Adam W. Feinberg – Carnegie Mellon University
The goal of this project is to demonstrate the feasibility of using 3D printing to make a high-end cut of cultured meat. Lindsey is modeling the meat after Wagyu steak, among the most sought-after meats in the world, first studying its unique fat and muscle marbling with image analysis. Next, the Wagyu structure will be 3D printed from bovine fat and muscle cells using the FRESH 3D printing technique and an edible alginate bioink. The final printed steak will be characterized and tasted to see just how close it is to Wagyu!
🇹🇭 Can Thailand be a hub for cultured protein production?
Waverly Eichhorst, Saloni Shah and Peter Newton – Breakthrough Institute
Demand for protein is growing fastest in emerging economies and cultured proteins are one approach for meeting the rising demand. However, most cultured protein production is located in high-income countries, like Singapore, the US, and Europe. To date, there aren’t any publicly available studies exploring cultured protein production’s feasibility in developing countries. This study will assess the barriers and opportunities associated with establishing cultured protein manufacturing in Thailand, which is one of the most cost-competitive locations in the world for manufacturing but currently lacks the technical support for food and pharmaceutical manufacturing.
🌱Can we produce plant protein fibers to emulate whole cut cultured meat?
Brigid Barrick, John Yuen, and David L Kaplan – Tufts University
Whole cut meat constitutes a large portion of the meat market, but it is hard to create their dense marbled structure in cultured meat. Textile bioengineering techniques can be applied to weave muscle cells and protein fibers into whole cuts of meat, however current methods use animal materials and expensive equipment. This project explores the application of thermally drawn protein fibers using plant-derived materials for low cost, animal free, “meat knitting”.
🇬🇧Mapping the potential for UK universities to become research and teaching hubs for cellular agriculture
Oana Kubinyecz and Jane Darling – Cellular Agriculture UK
Realizing large scale production of cultured meat will need a workforce with a range of skills. It is well-established that universities can be seeding grounds for regional innovation ecosystems. The nascency of cell ag in the UK creates an opportunity for UK universities to push leadership training and connectivity to progress the field. A mapping exercise will systematically analyze each UK university’s potential to become a cell ag anchor institution, thereby guiding students, academics, businesses and policymakers to those with the most potential to support growth of cell ag in the UK.
🗑How can low cost agriculture waste material can be used to support lab-grown meat production?
Hannah Chang and John Yuen – Tufts University
If cultured meat is to be produced sustainably, it cannot rely on serum or other animal-derived substances. This project will recycle materials from agricultural waste to contribute to the development of genuine animal-free alternatives. The central aim of this project is to develop a new process to extract the peptides from agricultural waste and identify growth factors that promote muscle tissue culture. It will be key to ensure that the peptides are extracted from zero or very low cost agricultural wastes (collected from land, marine or other sources), and used to grow muscle cells in culture.
🧪 Creating a cotton trichome cell line to grow cotton fibers without relying on the cotton plant
Sofia Sanchez – Tecnológico de Monterrey
It is believed that growing cotton fibers through cellular agriculture would consume a 80% less water, require no pesticides, and grow 10 times faster compared to traditional agriculture methods.
Although cotton ovules are cultured commonly, their production still depends on the plant as a source. The first goal for this research project is to develop a cotton fiber cell line, in order to grow cotton completely independently from a cotton plant. To increase public interest in cellular ag cotton, the last project milestone is to add the 6CF-Glc fluorescent complex to the growth medium to attempt to make the cotton fluoresce.
🤝What values will support collaboration in cellular agriculture?
Julieta Cardenas – New York University
Cultivated meat could help secure global protein demand without animal slaughter and with reduced environmental impacts. Yet, the venture capital funding model and proprietary licensing strategies that dominate the field are holding back its potential. For cellular agriculture to meet its goals, the field should look at open innovation in software and biotech to create intellectual property pools, commons and licensing strategies that can support collaboration. Julia will interview people in cell ag to understand how to incentivize this type of collaboration.
We are so excited that this program allowed us to explore projects outside of the scope of our existing grant programs. Through the Science Engine we were able to fund local cell ag orgs, social science research, and neglected but important cellular agriculture work beyond the food realm.
We still have some funding left to distribute – so stay tuned for the next set of projects that we fund through this innovative, award winning program.