Optimizing media for cultured meat products
Tackling a major technological challenge
If meat and seafood could be produced without slaughtering animals, the ethical and environmental benefits could be huge. In our Cultured Meat Innovation Field, we are focusing on the biotechnology required to produce genuine meat in vitro. However, scaling up the production process and reducing cost to make the product affordable enough for consumers remain key obstacles.
One of the major cost drivers for the cultured meat field is cell culture media, which is currently estimated to account for 55% to up to over 95% of the product’s marginal costs. To produce cultured meat at scale, the media needs to be much cheaper, suitable for efficient growth and differentiation of specific cell types, and free of any animal-derived material (such as fetal bovine serum). We are tackling exactly these challenges and aim to design and commercialize animal-origin free media formulations to enable the efficient production of various cultured seafood, avian and mammalian species.
Working on serum-free formulations
Currently, cells from many marine and agriculturally relevant species such as salmon, chicken and beef are cultured in fetal bovine serum (FBS) as it provides cells with nutrition and other factors that accelerate growth rates. For cultured meat products, however, the industry aims to use culture media that are completely free of animal material. They are making this shift for ethical reasons, but also because FBS would be too expensive to offer cultivated meat products at an affordable price.
Our scientists are working on media formulations that contain animal-free, cost-efficient growth factors for optimal cell expansion and differentiation.
Want to learn more about our efforts and approaches? Check out this blog post that recaps our participation at Future Food Tech 2021, where our experts discussed the elimination of FBS in media for cultured meat and how to drive down the cost of alternative growth factors.
Collaborating with cultured meat companies
This project is being realized at the Innovation Center and Silicon Valley Innovation Hub in close collaboration with the Life Science business. In order to advance technology solutions for the cultured meat industry, we are leveraging our company’s expertise and capabilities as a leading raw material supplier to the biopharma industry.
We are also working closely together with startup companies to develop serum-free media formulations suitable for their various cultured meat and seafood species.
Want to partner with us? Get in touch!
Accelerating research with virtual experimentation
To accelerate the research and development process, the project is also exploring the potential of virtual experimentation. By running lab experiment simulations, we can gain insights faster and more efficiently.
Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is one of the founding partners of the collaborative Cultivated Meat Modeling Consortium, which aims to leverage virtual experimentation by creating a foundational platform for computer modeling and simulation tailored to cultured meat technologies. The consortium consists of representatives from startups, academia, non-profits, and corporates. Read more in our blog!
Tune in for our “Future Talk" Podcast
How can virtual experiments accelerate cultured meat? Dario Kolenko, Head of New Business Development & Partnership Alliance, and Simon Kahan from the Cultivated Meat Modeling Consortium explored this topic!
Partner with us
Are you a startup company working on cultured meat or seafood and interested in collaborating or partnering with us? Contact us!
Head of Cultured Meat Commercial
Head of Silicon Valley and China Innovation Hubs