- Raw Materials, Ingredients, & Inputs
- Cell culture media
Finding a low-cost source of food-grade cell culture media, media ingredients, and media formulation specialists is a top challenge for many cultivated meat companies. The companies with the most experience in cell culture media development are primarily biopharmaceutical and life science supply companies. However, compared to clients in those sectors, the cultivated meat industry requires higher volumes, lower prices, and food- or feed-grade inputs. While these inputs may adhere to less stringent purity standards, they must also be safe for use in food.
Many companies are developing their own media formulations in-house, which is expensive and time-consuming. There are challenges related to optimizing specific cell lines and media formulations to produce the desired nutritional and flavor profile. There may be friction around intellectual property for cultivated meat companies who work with a partner to develop media. Optimized formulations are typically held as trade secrets, which results in the siloing of knowledge transfer and commercialization.
One or more companies supplying culture media specifically to the cultivated meat industry would be of enormous benefit. This could be achieved through several different scenarios:
- A company that has already developed or licensed cultivated meat-relevant cell lines might formulate media optimized for these lines and then license both the cell lines and the media to cultivated meat researchers or companies.
- Alternatively, a company might act as a contract research organization (CRO) and develop custom media for other companies’ cell lines.
- Other companies might act as contract manufacturers for large-scale production of existing media formulations. This would allow other companies to outsource development of low-cost supply chains and formulation skills and equipment. These suppliers could focus primarily on basal media and work with a separate supplier of growth factors or produce growth factors in-house.
Combinations of these strategies could be envisioned as well, e.g., a company that offers both off-the-shelf and custom formulations or a company that offers the all-in-one service of developing and formulating media for a client’s cell line. A critical key to the success of partnerships focused on developing or manufacturing custom formulations will be developing mutually favorable terms for information sharing and intellectual property ownership. A company choosing to position itself as a B2B media supplier will need access to sufficient capital, as there will likely be a time delay before becoming profitable as cultivated meat makes its way onto the market (see discussion of positive feedback loops below).
By making it easier and cheaper for cultivated meat companies to acquire culture media optimized for their particular cell lines and bioprocess, the presence of dedicated media suppliers will help to move the industry forward. As described for B2B suppliers of growth factors, we can expect positive feedback loops in which media suppliers make it possible for cultivated meat companies to scale up and bring down their prices, which will, in turn, expand the market available to the media suppliers, and so on.
- Defined Bioscience sells a commercial version of the open-source B8 media formulation.
- The life science supply company Merck KGaA is developing media formulations intended for cultivated meat.
- Trailhead Biosystems uses high-dimensional design of experiments to formulate media and growth conditions for the cellular therapeutics sector.
- Nutreco is fulfilling parts of this role as a supplier of media inputs for Mosa Meat and BlueNalu.
- Additional companies acting as B2B media suppliers are listed on page 21 of GFI’s State of the Industry Report: Cultivated meat and seafood.
- Aleph Farms and Wacker Chemie announced a non-exclusive partnership in December 2021 to make media components.
- Cultivated meat cell culture media cost analysis
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