Coordinated efforts to develop standardized, comprehensive research toolkits of meat-relevant species would exponentially accelerate cultivated meat research.
Open-access research into growth factors required for proliferation, maintenance, and differentiation of cell types relevant to cultivated meat will support both academic and industry research efforts. This research could include screening of species-specific growth factors under a variety of conditions and in a variety of cell types to characterize cross-species compatibility, which informs commercial efforts to scale production of the most widely used growth factors. Research should also seek to define optimal concentrations of individual growth factors and cocktails for achieving various cell states or behaviors, as well as understanding interactions between growth factors.
Metabolic and physiological characteristics of microbial strains define the commercial potential of any fermentative process, but only a minimal number of strains have been scaled up for commercial production of alternative protein. To broaden the spectrum of available microorganisms, systematic investigation into the physiology of novel microbial strains is needed to identify strains suitable for fermentation.
A more comprehensive understanding of the processes, structures, and molecular constituents governing meat's organoleptic properties will inform the production of alternative proteins.
For tissue-structured cultivated meat production, the transition from the proliferation phase to differentiation phase may involve seeding cells onto a prefabricated scaffold within a perfusion bioreactor. Medium is then perfused through the cell-laden scaffold, providing nutrients and oxygen as cells differentiate and mature. Computational models are needed to describe fluid flow through scaffolds to better understand mass transfer and shear forces. These models will inform considerations for scaffold materials, geometries, dimensions, fabrication methods, and bioprocess design as well as considerations for the composition and viscosity of the medium.
Companies entering the alt protein space often struggle to secure line time at demonstration-scale and mid-scale commercial production facilities. Greater availability of mid-scale contract capacity would reduce capital outlays and facilitate scaling, allowing alt protein companies to maintain greater control over their equity and exercise more influence within the supply chain. Contracting production allows for a more modular supply chain, with participants achieving gains from specialization, allowing for better financial and organizational structuring around core competencies.
The alternative protein industry has a significant need for workers and innovators with specialized knowledge spanning multiple traditional disciplines. However, since few universities offer alternative protein majors or dedicated subject matter, most alternative protein knowledge has to be learned on the job. The alternative protein industry needs educational programming that can cover the depth and complexity of knowledge, experience, and skills required within the context of traditional academic institutions as well as post-graduate professional development and training opportunities.
Rather than relying on recombinant growth factors, cultivated meat companies could use conditioned media from animal cells producing high levels of these molecules.
More frameworks for academic-industry collaboration could help build talent pipelines, create research commercialization pathways, and drive alignment on research priorities.
Microbial fermentation provides an efficient method for generating lipid molecules that are chemically identical to those produced by animals. Research efforts are needed to expand current knowledge about the process of engineering the appropriate metabolic pathways for the synthesis of animal lipids into microbial organisms well-suited for large-scale fermentation.