As the world awaits the arrival of cultured meat, manufacturers and their suppliers strategize to cope with the realities of this potentially mammoth market. Infrastructure and product scaling for growth remain a challenge from the supply side. Still, concerns over the pricing of lab-grown meat, poultry, and seafood might be the most significant roadblock to consumer acceptance.
Israeli-based Profuse Technology believes it has a solution to bring manufacturing costs down to a point where a pound of cultured beef could achieve price parity with meat from a live animal. A step forward, the company has announced the completion of a $2.5 million seed funding round (and a total of $3.75m since its establishment). The round is led by New York-based investment firm Green Circle and existing shareholders – OurCrowd, Tnuva, and Tempo. Other new investors include Siddhi Capital, a leader in investments in cultivated meat, and Kayma, the investment arm of De-Levie, a meat industry specialist.
According to the announcement, the company will use the funds to collaborate with cultivated meat producers, obtain FDA regulatory approval, and expand the research and development team and its laboratories. The funds will also position the company to source significant capital raising at the end of the second quarter of 2023 to commercialize its customer collaborations.
Profuse’s solution is based on what it calls “a cocktail” that is added during the period when a harvested animal stem cell begins its proliferation process. As founder and CTO Dr. Tamar Eigler-Hirsh told The Spoon: “You would start with a biopsy, and it could be directly from the muscle tissue or an embryonic stem cell harvested from an animal. The cultivated meat companies would take these cells, bank the most successful ones, and optimize them. They would grow them in bioreactors and expand and expand and proliferate these cells until they have hundreds of millions of cells per milliliter. And then, at some point, they have to differentiate the cells to become muscle tissue or muscle fibers. This is where our media supplement comes in.”
“What we’ve basically found a way was to target this natural biological mechanism of regeneration by understanding the biological pathway that that that’s responsible for that,” Dr. Eigler-Hirsh continues. “There’s one protocol to make muscle, and everybody follows it, and it’s very inefficient. Right now, we’re hearing numbers being reported about between 10% to 30% efficiency in converting stem cells into muscle. And using our technology, we can bump that number up from 30% well to over 90% efficiency in conversion of stem cell to muscle.”
Greater efficiency yields more muscle which in turn leads to cultured meat. The math is simple: a more significant and efficient supply can bring down manufacturing costs, which can be passed on to the consumer.
Profuse founder and CEO Guy Nevo Michrowski goes into further detail on the issue of price parity. . First, you won’t need as many cells to start with because your efficiency of using the cells will be 95%. So instead of going for 30 days, you’re going for only 25 days. And most important, the most expensive days are being saved. So, in the last ten days, where over 85% to 90% of the median cost is consumed, those days are cut by half because you don’t need as many cells. And then also, the differentiation and fusion maturation phase of creating them is now reduced to two days instead of ten. Your overall process is only 27 days versus 40 days, which means your factory can produce 33% more yearly.”
Using technology developed at the Weitzman Institute, the company started in 2021. In 2022 it began collaborating with cultivated meat companies and others who potentially would be our distribution partners. Michrowski said that Profuse is working with the major players in the cultured meat and poultry space” And I would say that of the ten leading companies worldwide, we are working with the vast majority together “to demonstrate and quantify the effects of our cocktail on their specific production environment. We operate with different customers to demonstrate our value in different viable development environments and methods.”