Brief: Prolific Machines raises $42m from Breakthrough, Mayfield to slash cultivated meat costs

September 14, 2022

  • US-based biotech startup Prolific Machines has emerged from stealth mode with $42 million shared between “massively oversubscribed” seed and Series A rounds.
  • It plans to drive down the cost of cultivated meat manufacturing via biotech and machine learning technologies. 
  • The seed round was led by Arvind Gupta at Mayfield, while Breakthrough Energy Ventures led the Series A round. 
  • Funding will go towards building a new production facility and further developing Prolific Machines’ assembly line technology.

Why it matters:

Cultivated meat companies speak often about the high production costs associated with their products. Many of the technologies needed for manufacturing — from bioreactors to growth media proteins — come from biopharma and were’t originally intended for the kind of scale required to shift global diets away from animal protein.

Recombinant proteins necessary for cell production are normally one of the most expensive elements of the cultivated meat-making process. Prolific Machines co-founder and CEO Deniz Kent told TechCrunch that “one of the proteins we are replacing is like 30,000 times more expensive than a gram of gold.”

Kent’s company has found a way to grow control cells without the need for recombinant proteins. At least in theory, this would enable cell production at scale and give cultivated meat the chance to compete at a level with animal factory farming. 

The company, a graduate of SOSV’s IndieBio program, has even likened itself to Henry Ford’s automobile operation of the early twentieth century, saying in a statement: “In 1906, there were hundreds of car companies, yet most people could not afford a car. After Ford invented the assembly line for automobiles, car production became scalable, and then cars became a mass market item. Prolific is inventing the technology that holds the key to building a scalable assembly line for biology.”

In future, the company plans to produce its own meat products as well as license its technology to other meat companies. 

Prolific Machines actually raised the Series A round about a year ago but is only just now emerging from stealth. Funds will go towards building a 25,000-square-foot headquarters in Emeryville, California, make new hires and expand assembly line programs.

It plans to raise a Series B round around the $170 million mark in the first quarter of 2023.

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