At-scale production costs are a major obstacle to the widespread commercialization of cultivated meat products. Perhaps the most prominent example is the current lack of predictable, cost-effective supply of growth media.
Producers of cultivated meat are working around the clock to reduce the costs of serum-free growth media. Developing medium formulations that comprise novel, low-cost materials may be the answer, but such formulations must do more than merely satisfy scale-up strategies. They must also conform to the requirements set by relevant regulatory agencies and prove conducive to delicious and nutritious products that diners are eager to try.
To this end, companies are increasingly aiming to create new, cost-effective growth factors that meet these criteria. However, the associated costs and complexities of experiments that test these formulations’ effectiveness have proven to be a serious challenge.
An obstacle for the whole value chain of cultivated meat
Overcoming a hurdle that spans the value chain of cultivated meat means fostering collaboration across that very value chain. This is what makes the Cultivated Meat Consortium, of which Aleph Farms is a founding member and leading partner, particularly suited to achieve viable and cost-effective growth medium formulations.
Powered by the Israel Innovation Authority, the Cultivated Meat Consortium is a cornerstone of global support for the Israeli cultivated meat ecosystem. It brings together diverse partners who are all determined to advance cultivated meat innovation and commercialization. Collaboration between and across industry and academia comes in the forms of defining the value chain’s challenges and orienting one another in ways that address these challenges. We share scientific expertise, cutting-edge technology, and industry-specific knowledge, strengthening all partners along the way.
Identifying an optimal formulation means being able to observe its true impact
We at Aleph Farms are honored to play a role in bringing this collaboration to life. A major part of our work in the consortium lies in assessing the impact of growth media and other materials produced by partner companies so that together, the cultivated meat ecosystem can identify the formulations that are optimal for scalable production of cultivated meat. This involves testing cells at different stages of production to examine what characteristics they are demonstrating and whether or not these characteristics are instrumental for growing the desired final product.
Often, this means testing cells after they have gathered to form complex aggregates. The common way to check individual cells in aggregate is to disassemble these aggregates. While this method offers a respectable level of reliability, it carries a drawback: following disaggregation, even if one can view cell characteristics clearly, it becomes impossible to know where in the aggregate these cells were. Knowing the location of a cell within the aggregate gives an even greater understanding of the cell’s biology as it relates to the production process.
A novel method for testing aggregated cells
Recently, with financial backing from the Israel Innovation Authority, Aleph Farms developed a novel method for testing cells that have aggregated. It’s an advanced 3D imaging-based high-throughput platform by which we can examine cells’ characteristics without employing disaggregation. Using a technique known as ‘immunostaining,’ the platform enables us to view – in rapid and reliable fashion – the impact of growth medium components on growth and pluripotency specifically for cows’ embryonic stem cells, which are the basis of our cultivated beef steaks.
With this technique in place, we can now examine cells one at a time without disrupting the structure that supports their real-time qualities. Being able to spot cells’ characteristics within the context of this structure allows us to better judge the impact of any given growth medium component. Such precision will be essential for zeroing in on optimal medium formulations now and in the future.
Impact on the cultivated meat ecosystem at large
With this new platform in place, we will be better positioned to provide accurate feedback on formulations to consortium partner companies that produce growth media. This will help those companies refine their respective formulations, which in turn can help supply the entire cultivated meat ecosystem with predictable, cost-effective growth media.
Not only does this catalyze even stronger collaboration between medium developers and producers of cultivated meat, but it also may prove to be a key moment in the journey to scaling cultivated meat production and achieving price parity with conventional animal products.