Innovating growth media for ‘cost-competitive’ cultivated meat: ‘We want to see products competing with conventional meat in supermarkets by 2027’

Multus Biotechnology Ltd has raised £1.6m (€1.8m) to commercialise its animal-free growth media by the end of the year. FoodNavigator catches up with CEO and co-founder Cai Linton to find out how their solution differs from others on the market.

Investors in the seed round include SOSV, Zero Carbon Capital, Marinya Capital and angel Sake Bosch, with an equity-free grant also received from the UK Research and Innovation Council.

Funding will be used to take Multus Biotechnology’s first product to market by the end of 2021, before scaling production in 2022 to support the regulatory approval and commercialisation of cultivated meat, co-founder Cai Linton explained.

“Our plan is that by 2027, we want to see cultivated meat in the supermarkets competing with conventional meat – that’s the guiding light we’re aiming for.”

‘Tackling the growth media challenge’

Multus was founded by CEO Linton, CTO Kevin Pan, and COO Reka Tron in early 2019. The trio met through Imperial College’s Synthetic Biology Society, where they all shared ‘excitement’ for the potential of cultivated meat, Linton recalled. “We really wanted to tackle the key technical challenges that are holding this space back.” 

In a more global sense, Multus is wanting to play its part in fixing ‘a broken food system’. “Industrial meat production is damaging the planet,” ​the CEO told FoodNavigator. “It is broken in so many ways, from animal welfare, to the climate, land use, and water use… We saw our background in bioscience and engineering as a way to solve that problem through cultivated meat.”

​Upon digging deeper into the space, the co-founders pinpointed a key barrier in scaling up production.

“Growth media kept coming up again and again as the element really driving the cost of production to heights that were unstainable for any kind of scale-up, and to then to commercialisation. So we decided that this was the challenge we wanted to tackle.” 

Alt foetal bovine serum

Multus’ solution is a ‘true replacement’ to foetal bovine serum (FBS) – a blood serum used in biomedical research, as well as in biopharmaceutical and therapeutical production.

FBS is usually extracted from bovines during the slaughtering process. From a scientific perspective, FBS has a great number of benefits, including its ability to encourage significant cell growth ‘to a high degree’.

“The key issues,” ​according to Linton, “are that it’s animal-derived, there is a lot of variability in its cost and performance, and in terms of scaling up to the volumes [required by] the cultivated meat industry, its potential is limited.” 

Multus’ alternative to FBS, on the other hand, is completely animal-free, and designed specifically for the cultivated meat industry.

To tackle the issues surrounding growth media performance, cost, and scale, Multus is homing in on formulation and plant-based ingredients.

“One of our core technologies is that potent engineering piece,” ​the CEO explained. “Like many, we use growth factors as a serum replacement, but then on the nutrient side, we are looking at different extracts and hydrolysates to offset some of the individually purified ingredients that we use today.” 

Growth factors are vital for signalling different processes that support cell growth, he elaborated. Yet current growth factors used by the industry tend to degrade quickly. This means that the whole growth media needs to be changed every two to three days. “This not only makes for a very laborious process, but also a very expensive process.”

To combat this issue, Multus is engineering proteins to maintain their core active function, extending different biophysical properties such as stability, solubility, and bioreactivity. This, Linton continued, makes them suitable for very large-scale production, and ‘really drives down their cost’ in terms of performance.

The start-up hasn’t yet run the numbers on exactly how much longer its growth media can be used, compared to others on the market, but the CEO suggested early data looks promising.

Multus’ first product, Proliferum M, is designed for mammalian cell proliferation, as used in cultured beef and pork products. “We are testing early formulation products at the moment,” ​we were told, “and seeking feedback and early validation before we roll out more broadly towards the end of this year”. 

While the start-up is currently focused on cultivated beef and pork opportunities, it has plans to diversify its portfolio. “Within our pipeline, we [expect to] create a whole catalogue of standardised growth media for all cell types across cultivated meat.”

Concerning regulation, Multus is not faced with the same challenges as manufacturers – who are the ones submitting applications for commercial approval. However, the CEO said the company will be ‘supporting clients through that process’.

“Any persistent materials in that final product will be scrutinised,” ​he explained. “And in the US, growth media ingredients are likely to be seen as ingredients themselves.” 

Multus is first eyeing the European market to test and validate its first product. But ‘very quickly’, Linton expects Multus to become a ‘global operation’, with key markets including Europe, North America, Singapore and China. 

Website Link (Article by Flora Southey)

Published by RenSun Lee

Kia ora! Sustainability is at the core of my soul ever since I was a kid. I always strive to finish the food on my plate and live as a minimalist. I love to cut down on waste in order to live sustainably and harmoniously with our planet. This brings me to my passion as a Food Scientist to integrate new technologies into innovative and creative solutions to meet customer demands and market trends and to optimize products and processes for quality, savings and sustainability. To these goals, I have published a Journal on my work on sustainable packaging and patented a new Antimicrobial wash. Nothing is more satisfying than working hard and smart at the workplace and playing hard outside of working hours. I enjoy rejuvenating myself through spending quality time with my two adorable kids and my awesome soul mate and getting close to nature when possible, be it gardening, tramping or going to the beach. I also love to learn about our magnificent universe and how sustainability is working in the grand scheme of things. I strongly believe that Work, Life & Balance is the key to a healthy state of mind, both physically and mentally. I look forward to making a positive difference wherever and whenever I can. Through this Blog, I hope to catalog recent Food Trends and Food Technologies that I come across so that anyone who is interested can have access to it (articles and resources). Please use these resources at your discretion. On top of that, I would also like to share related news and technologies of the future that would help mankind advance towards a Type 1 Civilization. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to share and contribute to the “Resources“. I would like to thank you in advance for dropping by. I sincerely hope that you can benefit from the recent Food Trends and Food Technologies I catalogued. Kind regards | Ngā mihi RenSun Lee

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