Culture 3 min read

Bill Gates Backed Startup Uses CRISPR to Grow Meat

Raising millions of dollars in funds, memphis meats is exploring gene-editing technology CRISPR to produce more competitive cultured meat.

This tech startup could give an even larger boost to the already rapidly growing synthetic meat market. ¦ Sudowoodo / Shutterstock

This tech startup could give an even larger boost to the already rapidly growing synthetic meat market. ¦ Sudowoodo / Shutterstock

2012 brought us the new gene editing tool known as CRISPR. In the following year, we saw the world’s first lab-grown burger using in vitro meat.

The two new technologies were bound to meet at some point, and now we’ve reached that crossroad.

With CRISPR, scientists have the ability to modify any DNA at will. This opens a wide horizon in fields as varied as medicine, biology, chemistry, and agriculture.

Now, startups attracting millions of dollars in funds want to use gene editing technology to synthesize meats on a sounder scientific and economic basis.

Building Meat From the Genetic Ground up

Based in Berkeley, Memphis Meats is a food tech startup launched in 2015, although the company claims the initial idea for the business goes back to 2005.

Memphis Meats uses CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors to produce cell-based meat alternatives.

Business Insider (BI) reports it has spotted two patents by Memphis Meats about CRISPR-based method to create beef and chicken tissue.

Memphis Meats’ patent reads:

“One application is to manufacture skeletal muscle for dietary consumption using cells from the poultry species Gallus gallus; another is from the livestock species Bos taurus,”

A Memphis Meats spokesperson also told BI that:

“As a company focused on research and development, we are exploring a number of innovative techniques that will allow us to make our products better for the environment and public health, as well as more affordable and scale-able,”

Cultivating animal cells into meats is an emerging industry with huge potential as attested by the millions of dollars pouring at all the stages of fundraising rounds.

In 2017, Memphis Meats raised $17 million from venture capital firms like DFJ, tech giants like Tesla, SpaceX, Baidu, major food companies like Cargill and Tyson, and billionaires like Bill Gates and Richard Bronson.

Memphis isn’t the only startup in Silicon Valley to attract entrepreneurs interest.

New Age Meats is another startup that could get enough financial backing to explore using CRISPR technique to culture meats from animal stem cells.

“Technologies like Crispr allow us to safely increase the quality of our cell growth, which means we will make meat that is tastier, healthier, and more sustainable than slaughtered meat,”

  • Brian Spears, New Age Meats co-founder and CEO.

Recently, New Age Meats hosted a public tasting event of its prototype slaughter-free sausages.

Read More: Survey Shows Asia is Ready for Lab-Grown Meat

Meats grown in labs using cultured cells of beef, poultry, pork, and sea animals could eliminate environmental and ethical issues associated with conventional meat production.

According to Mosa Meat, the Dutch food tech startup behind the first ever lab-grown burger, one tissue sample from a cow can yield  800 million strands of muscle tissue, enough to make 80,000 quarter-pounders.

Clean meat products would hit the market shelves in the next few years, and gene editing can boost their commercial viability. CRISPR technique can allow lab-grown meat to overcome barriers like taste and cost.

Will consumers come then en masse?

Unlike what we may think, cultured meat, or meatless meats, already enjoy wide acceptance among consumers, at least in the world’s three biggest meat markets.

Read More: Lab Burger Update: The Food Industry Moves Toward Meatless Meat

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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