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Meatable cofounder Krijn de Nood
Meatable cofounder Krijn de Nood

🎥 Meatable CEO: ‘We believe we have the fastest process in the field to make cultivated meat’

May 30, 2023

Dutch startup Meatable has slashed production times for cultivated pork from three weeks to eight days in the past year by dramatically speeding up the process by which its stem cells differentiate into fat and muscle, transforming its unit economics.

While the technology has thus far only been demonstrated in 50-liter bioreactors, Meatable is currently scaling up to 500-liter vessels and is “very confident that this process will scale,” said cofounder and CEO Krijn de Nood.

Speaking to AFN at the sidelines of the SynBioBeta conference in Oakland, California last week, de Nood said the cultivated meat industry is “now maturing in a time where capital is not free anymore.

“We have to be cost-competitive with traditional meat,” he told us. “If we cannot do that, in the long term, we don’t have a business and we don’t have a purpose.”

Pluripotent stem cells

Meatable, which was founded in 2018 by Krijn de Nood, Daan Luining, and Dr. Mark Kotter, has raised about $60 million to date from investors including DSM Venturing and Section32.

It has a pilot facility in Delft and hopes to launch at a very small scale in Singapore in early 2024 and in the US in 2025 with hybrid products containing 50:50 cultivated- to plant-based meat.

Meatable uses pluripotent stem cells, which have certain advantages including rapid division (they can proliferate fast without being ‘immortalized’) and versatility (they can differentiate or transform into multiple different cell types such as fat or muscle), said de Nood.

PSCs can be challenging to work with, he said. However, Meatable deploys patented ‘opti-ox’ technology developed by cofounder Dr. Mark Kotter that makes it possible to activate transcription factors (combinations of which encode the identity of cells) with a “precision rarely seen in biology.” This enables it to both precisely control and dramatically speed up the differentiation process.

80 million cells per milliliter

To put this into perspective, said de Nood, “If you look at traditional cattle farming, you’re talking about [a slaughter age of] 18 months, or about eight months for a pig. If you compare that to our eight days, that’s a pretty significant achievement. And looking at our own process, about a year ago, it took about three weeks.”

He added: “What we have now proven is that we can grow cells in very high densities [80 million cells per milliliter], and that basically means that per liter of bioreactor capacity or per euro of investment, we create a lot of biomass. Then, through our opti-ox technology, we can make that into very high quality, fat or muscle within days.

“We now believe we have the fastest process in the field.”

‘We are very confident that this process will scale’

Asked about the scale of Meatable’s operations, they are still small, he acknowledged. “We have proven our process at the 50-liter scale and we are scaling up as we speak to the 500-liter scale. But what we have proved due to the efficiency of our process is that we don’t need big bioreactors. [At full commercial scale] we’ll need about 50 cubic meters [50,000-L], which is still very significant, but we don’t need to go higher than that.

“So we think it’s very, very feasible. Obviously, there will be engineering challenges as we go along, but we are very confident that this process will scale.”

Fatty acid profiles, protein expression

But does Meatable’s product have a comparable nutritional profile to pork or beef from slaughtered animals?

While Meatable is not making structured products such as beef steak or pork chops or deploying a tissue engineering or scaffolding approach for its first products, said de Nood, the cells it harvests are “fully differentiated. Our meat has the same mature fatty acid profile and protein expression as you find in typical meat.”

He added: “We basically use off-the-shelf equipment and we don’t use any scaffolding in our bioreactors; we’re not growing solid meat for our first line of products, although we are working on that [for launches further down the road].”

Continuous production process

Meatable operates a continuous perfusion process, he explained. “We fill up the bioreactor, and every day we harvest about 50% of the cells [which are then transferred to a second vessel for the differentiation phase, which requires different media]. Within a day, it [the first bioreactor] will completely fill up [with cells] again, so you get the highest yield out of your bioreactor.

“And that drives the cost of the products, which we believe need to be at cost parity to make a dent in the livestock market.”

He added: “If you make a hybrid product [a blend of plant-based and cultivated meat] with 10% of our product, there’s a big step up in quality. Typically what we now make is a 50:50 product, which really has an advantage as I believe in the early days, this will be a supply-limited market, so by doing a 50:50 hybrid, we basically double our production capacity.”

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