Improving our understanding of the relative advantages and disadvantages of different cell types for cultivated meat would enable companies to make these decisions more effectively with less duplicative effort.
Raw Materials, Ingredients, & Inputs
Plants can serve as expression platforms similar to microorganisms used as recombinant protein hosts. This may require minimal processing into value-added ingredients, such as egg and dairy functional proteins. Plants offer scalability with less need for expensive downstream purification to isolate proteins of interest from inedible or undesirable hosts.
Opportunities exist to coordinate product development partnerships between ingredient suppliers, strategic partners, and product manufacturers to directly engage more holistically on product formulation.
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.
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.