Growth medium is widely recognized in the cell-cultured meat industry as one of the nascent sector’s biggest cost drivers. According to a survey conducted by the Good Food Institute in 2020, growth media made up 80% or more of the total operating cost for 38% of those cell-cultured meat manufacturers who responded, while 72% of respondents indicated that growth media made up half or more of their total operating costs.
As a result, a number of startups have been working on developing new approaches to create lower-cost growth media. One of these companies is CellCrine, which claims to be developing the world’s cheapest serum-free growth media. As a member of IndieBio’s 12th cohort, CellCrine pitched their idea this week at the biotech accelerator’s Demo Day.
CellCrine’s media utilizes what it says are proteins that are currently not a component of any media sold today. These proteins act as “cell culture activator” that coordinates the cell growth process and brings out the best performance from within cells. According to the company, adding these proteins as a supplement to cultured cell growth media “reduces the need for all other growth factors and recombinant proteins 90% or more.”
“How does it work? It helps cells help themselves,” CellCrine cofounder and CEO Dr. Rodolfo Faudoa says in the pitch video.
Faudoa first started working on growth media when he was working on his postdoc at USC’s Department of gene therapy. There he developed serum-free growth media for Schwann cells from the auditory nerve. He succeeded and was recruited to Stanford University where he worked on scarless wound healing.
According to Faudoa, once a growth culture is initiated using a small concentration of these unique proteins, they no longer need any more. From there, the cells start to secrete their own growth factors by pumping up the autocrine and paracrine signaling among cells.
Last year the company started applying the proteins to meat cells and the results were impressive. According to CellCrine, the cells grow better with their proteins than in 20% fetal bovine serum. The company has established 4 master cell lines – two for chicken and two for pork cells have tailored essential media supplements for each.
The company is currently working on several pilots with different cell cultured meat companies who are testing out their growth supplements. Like most companies coming out of IndieBio, they are looking for additional partners and are, we presume, going to be talking to investors.