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Eyal Rosenthal Ever After Foods
Eyal Rosenthal: "Companies need to show investors that they can scale, which is where our technology comes into play.”

Don’t write off cultivated meat just yet, says Ever After Foods: ‘We’re not offering incremental improvements but something truly disruptive’

June 27, 2024

While money—and optimism—in the nascent cultivated meat industry are in pretty short supply these days, it’s far too early to write it off, insists Israeli startup Ever After Foods, which has just secured a $10 million capital injection to scale patented technology it claims can slash capex and opex costs.

A spinoff from cell-expansion company company Pluri, which is also backed by Israeli food co Tnuva Group, Ever After Foods has exclusive licensing rights to Pluri’s IP around cultivated meat and fish, and has recently switched to a b2b model to give other companies access to its technology.

The latest capital injection—led by undisclosed “multinational companies” and Asian investors together with Tnuva and Pluri—will help the startup build its b2b strategy and provide bioreactors and edible scaffolds to third parties who can use their own cell lines or work with ones developed by Ever After Foods, CEO Eyal Rosenthal told AgFunderNews.

“We are already working with select cultivated meat and food companies because they can see that we are not just offering incremental improvements but something that is truly disruptive in terms of productivity.”

According to CTO Dr. Barak Zohar: “Even if you just look at media and depreciation costs, the cost of our system is dramatically lower than the equivalent stir tank approach [the type of bioreactor most commonly used by cultivated meat companies]; we’re talking about production costs that are 90% lower. And that’s before you even look at things like water use, plant area and electricity.”

Rosenthal added: “We’re in a downcycle right now in a market where there has been a lot of over-promising and under-delivering. Companies need to show investors that they can scale, which is where our technology comes into play.”

Ever After Foods bioreactors for cultivated meat
While Ever After Foods (formerly Plurinuva) was only formed in 2022, the IP underpinning it has been developed over many years, with patents covering cell lines, bioreactor design, and the harvesting process after the propagation stage, says CEO Eyal Rosenthal. Image credit: Ever After Foods

‘We have a huge cost advantage’

Rather than proliferating cells in single cell suspension or aggregates in ever larger and more expensive stir tank bioreactors, Ever After Foods deploys a two-stage approach using far smaller packed bed vessels.

In the first cell propagation phase, adherent cells grow on non-edible carriers, from which they are detached using mechanical force (patented ‘vibrations’ technology). They are then transferred to larger production bioreactors where they seed onto edible scaffolding (plant-based, but not protein based, according to Rosenthal) and differentiate and mature into meaty tissue.

According to Rosenthal, the approach involves “significantly lower capital expenditures and production costs versus other cultivated meat technology platforms. We can produce more than 10 kilos of cultivated meat mass with a 35-liter production bioreactor, whereas others would need a 1,000+ liter bioreactor to produce that amount. The process takes about one to two weeks, depending if we do differentiation.”

He added: “An Ever After Foods 1,400-liter bioreactor can produce 400 kilos of cultivated meat, whereas using competing technologies, you’d need huge stir tank bioreactors to produce an equivalent amount. We have a huge cost advantage.”

More tissue in the same space, more efficient utilization of media

Although growing the cells on non-edible carriers in the initial propagation phase might not sound like the best way to achieve high cell densities, the cells grow very efficiently and the vast majority can be harvested, Zohar explained.

Stirring cells in large stir tank bioreactors can damage them, while efficiency can also deteriorate with larger vessels, he claimed. “We have a very efficient system where cells continue to proliferate very efficiently in the final production stage, so we don’t need a lot of cells to seed in the [initial] propagation stage.”

He added: “The packed bed allows you to flow media through a path of tissue where it basically composes a column, so it’s much more suitable for a high solid-to-liquid ratio, so you can get more tissue in the same space. We’re talking about 44% tissue out of the working volume, and we use less media.

“We’re also recycling our media, which allows us to reduce costs dramatically. Our system is very compact, so the total volume of the system is lower and more cost-effective in terms of media and supplements both for cell growth and differentiation.”

He added: “The other thing that’s unique about our bioreactors is that the media is cell-free by design. You don’t have to separate the media from the cells if you want to remove media and do recycling and re-using and even sterilization, because everything isn’t floating around together in one big vessel.

“In our system, the cells are inside the column and the media is in a reservoir and it’s circulated inside. This means we can use the media in a far more efficient way.”

Meat, not undifferentiated ‘cell slurry’

Meanwhile, the ultra-porous edible scaffold in the production bioreactors comprises 4% of the total mass by weight but enables the cells to differentiate and mature to create something significantly meatier than the undifferentiated “cell slurry” that many cultivated meat companies plan to launch with, claimed Zohar.

“We’ve also proved we can get far higher levels of protein and lipids when we provide the conditions for cells to create tissues and we need fewer cells to initiate the process because the edible scaffolding allows the cells to continue to grow for at least four or five doublings before we push them to differentiate to muscle and to fat tissue.

“And even without differentiation to muscle, just growing the cells inside the edible scaffold, we can get six times more protein as cells under adherent conditions express proteins that support structure; they secrete extracellular matrix proteins.”

To initiate the differentiation process, he says, “In some cases, we add materials to the media, and in some cases, we switch the media, but our differentiation is very efficient. For fat differentiation, we get very close to 100% [of cells] differentiating to fat, plus the cells are producing 700 times more lipids than if they were growing in suspension.”

He added: “The major reason a lot of companies are growing cells in suspension is because this is the common approach in pharma, so they adapt cells to grow in a stir tank bioreactor. But we felt this was not the right approach to making cultivated meat. It makes cell slurry, not meat.

“If you want to make something like that, you could just work with yeast and bacteria. But we want to make meat with real muscle and fat tissue.”

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