May 18, 2022

Israeli startup BioBetter unveils tobacco plant-based technology to enable mass production of cultured meat at reduced costs

Kiryat Shmona’s Israeli food tech startup BioBetter unveils a tobacco plant-based platform, which will enable low-cost mass production of growth factors (GFs) for the cultured meat industry. The company will use the platform to produce growth factors for food technology companies to enable efficient large-scale production of cultured meat, making it a low-cost mass consumer product for the mainstream. public. The company estimates that the new technology will enable the annual production of thousands of tons of growth promoters for the cultured meat industry at a cost of $1 per gram.

Co-founders of BioBetter (from left to right): Prof. Oded Shoseyov, Dr Amit Yaari, Dr Dana Yarden and Avi Tzur. Credit: Alexander Seleznyov.

The startup applies proprietary technology to express and purify tobacco plant proteins, in a process that utilizes green biomass from the whole plant for the production of a high-quality purified product. The technology is based on advanced molecular expression systems and combines large-scale, open-field cultivation of tobacco plants with proprietary purification technology to enable mass production of GF at very low cost, which in its turn, will significantly reduce the cost of producing cultured meat.

BioBetter was founded by Professor Oded Shoseyov, serial entrepreneur and researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Dr. Dana Yarden, MD, MBA, biotech business expert; and Avi Tzur, an industrialist with an avid vision to put the tobacco plant to good use and who was also the first investor in the technology. The company currently employs 23 researchers and has raised $5 million to date from private investors and an institutional VC (Alpha Capital Anstalt), to develop and produce growth factors for the cultured food industry. . BioBetter participates in the CM development research programs of the Israel Innovation Authority and the Good Food Institute.

Cultured meat requires a culture medium made up of a mixture of amino acids, nutrients and, most importantly, growth factors (GFs), without which cells cannot differentiate or proliferate. Currently, these media are prohibitively expensive, primarily due to GF costs. Some growth factors can be manufactured by fermentation processes, but these are complex, expensive and require significant CAPEX.

The Good Food Institute (GFI), a non-profit organization that promotes the use of meat alternatives, has calculated that a 100-fold reduction in insulin and shifting production costs are needed to make financially viable cultured meat industry,” says Dr. Dana. Yarden, MD, co-founder of BioBetter. “It is estimated that growth factors and cell culture media can constitute 55-85% of the marginal cost of manufacturing cell-based foods.”

BioBetter harnesses the natural advantages of the tobacco plant as a bioreactor for protein expression to enable large-scale production. Plant bioreactors are environmentally friendly – harnessing renewable energy (sunlight) and fixing CO2. They are also self-forming, self-sufficient and biodegradable, producing and storing growth factors until harvest. BioBetter uses field plantings to enable a fast, efficient and flexible response to market needs.

“The tobacco plant has clear advantages for the process of producing growth factors from a non-animal source,” explains Dr. Amit Yaari, CEO of BioBetter. “It grows quickly, accumulates a large biomass and can produce four crops a year. It is also suitable for the production of a large number of complex proteins. The global trend to reduce tobacco consumption is pushing tobacco growers, especially in the United States, to seek new uses for the plant. The tobacco plant has vast potential to become a key part of the future of food – a future that we at BioBetter will make possible.