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.
Raw Materials, Ingredients, & Inputs
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.
Infrastructure leasing for production and processing facilities as well as capital equipment would enable alternative protein companies to rapidly expand capacity without large upfront capital investments. Having leasing funds and leasing companies with an alternative protein focus could entice corporate players who otherwise would not have considered alternative proteins to enter the space. They could also spare many smaller alternative protein startups from undertaking relatively expensive, equity-backed capital raises early in their expansion.
Rather than relying on recombinant growth factors, cultivated meat companies could use conditioned media from animal cells producing high levels of these molecules.
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.
Development of humanely-sourced and thoroughly documented and characterized cell lines from a variety of common food species—together with a mechanism for licensing and distributing these lines to researchers and companies—will remove a key barrier to entry into the field of cultivated meat. In addition, development of open-access, standardized protocols for performing cell isolation from a variety of source tissues and establishing robust cell lines will streamline the processes for those who do end up needing to perform their own isolation and cell line establishment.
Plant-based food manufacturers often struggle with batch-to-batch ingredient inconsistency and variability between suppliers. Better analytical tools for predicting plant-based ingredient performance could improve manufacturing efficiency and create more transparent ingredient markets. Tools are needed to predict how ingredients will perform after various processing methods and in end-product applications like plant-based meat and dairy.
Processing crops into flours, isolates, and concentrates often relies on chemical and mechanical methods. Biological processing techniques may impart the desired composition and molecular structure for optimal functionality with increased precision, lower cost, and greater suitability for small-scale processing. Biological processing techniques include using enzymes to fine-tune functional properties like solubility, gelling capacity, and fat- and water-binding capacity or using microbial fermentation to convert plant protein feedstocks into more functional forms.
Many alternative protein companies use similar inputs, but individually lack the purchasing power to negotiate favorable contract terms. A pooled procurement/group purchasing mechanism for ingredients, inputs (growth factors, media, etc.), and feedstocks would help reduce costs and increase industry leverage.
Animal cell metabolism within cultivators can produce useful co-product side streams that provide monetary value to the manufacturer while creating a novel source of inputs for other industries. Potential side streams should be identified and analyzed for their utility and economic viability, in addition to developing methods for efficient side stream capture.