Bringing down the price tag of growth medium for cultivated meat
Header image: Cai Linton working in the lab (photo: Thomas Angus, Imperial College London)
Cultivated meat has the potential to replace butchered animals as the main future source of protein. New start-ups in this field are aiming not only to deliver the end products, but also to provide technologies.
When Cai Linton was introduced to the concept of cultivated meat in early 2019, he was excited about the opportunities presented by this potential revolution in the biosciences. He and his teammates, who are mostly still completing their college studies, decided to contribute to this new industry and apply their knowledge of state-of-the-art technology to help it grow.
Can a young start-up provide the solution to an old challenge?
After analyzing the technology basis of cultured meat, they decided to focus their research on the medium used for its cultivation. Growth medium is the main driver of the high cost involved in producing cultivated meat. Traditionally, fetal bovine serum (FBS), which is both expensive and fraught with ethical issues, has been used in growth media for biomedical products. Linton believes that a cheaper food-grade replacement with good performance must be found to meet the industry’s requirements in scaling up and getting the cost down.
Linton and his teammates are leveraging the extra support, both business-wise and in science-wise, from Imperial College London and are backed by IndieBio to get their product to market. So maybe this young start-up can indeed provide the solution to one of the most urgent challenges in commercializing cultivated meat.
Wanted: A high-performance, universally applicable, low-cost medium
Multus Media is working on three approaches to find a high-performance universal medium that can bring the price tag to below US$1 per liter. Their first product will be a serum replacement combining the ingredients contained in animal serum with those developed commercially or through academic research. By finding the most important ingredients and the right proportion, they hope to bridge the gap between existing serum-free and serum-based growth media.
The other two approaches that Multus Media is working on are using protein engineering on specific proteins and growth factors to find streamlined ways to produce these proteins quickly and cheaply. These mass-produced proteins and growth factors can then be incorporated into their growth medium formulation. At this stage, Linton and his team will be able to use their own food-grade, large scale-produced growth factors instead of the ones used by pharmaceutical companies.
Time to scale up
Based on our own analysis, Supertrends predicts that large-scale, worldwide production of cultured meat could happen around 2024 and 2025 (https://faas.supertrends.com/product/cultured-meat/). Linton and his team are hoping to bring the price tag of growth medium below US$1 per liter in order to support the cultivated meat industry’s efforts to become price-competitive and scale up their production. This young start-up may indeed become one of the frontline players in the cultivated meat industry.