Israel’s BioBetter secures funding for its tobacco plant protein technology

Analysts predict that the value of the cultured meat market will reach $2.8 billion by 2030, which is not bad for a sector that has yet to produce a viable mass-market product. While many global regulatory agencies decide if and when to green light beef, chicken, fish, etc. grown in the lab, there is no shortage of companies working to support this nascent space.

Among the latest to see credit for providing the underlying technology for the cultured meat space is Israel-based BioBetter, which secured $10 million in A-round funding. This significant injection of capital will be instrumental in further developing his company, which uses tobacco leaves to develop growth factors (a material that stimulates cell production) to reduce costs and increase production of lab-grown meats.

BioBetter has developed a unique protein manufacturing platform to produce growth factors (GFs) using tobacco plants (Nicotiana tabacum) as natural, self-sustaining, animal-free bioreactors. Field-grown tobacco plants offer a new, sustainable, efficient and flexible response to the market need for GF at more competitive prices, specifically insulin, transferrin and FGF2. These compounds are necessary for cultured meat to be commercially viable.

“Tobacco plants actually have many advantages, including high biomass and rapid growth rate, their ability to produce multiple crops throughout the year. Tobacco is not a food crop, and its off-flavor alkaloids prevent animals from eating it, making it particularly suitable for the production of growth factors,” Professor Oded Shoseyov, the company’s founder, told The Spoon. via email. “No nutrients are extracted from the plants, but the cells of the tobacco plant become little bioreactors, each of which makes a growth factor, according to the DNA sequence inserted into its genome.”

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A bioreactor is defined as a container in which a chemical process is carried out involving organisms or biochemically active substances derived from said organisms. For many plant-based foods and beverages, a bioreactor is a physical tank, like the one used in a brewery. Inside, genetically modified microorganisms are grown with a substrate to create a burger, beer or kombucha with mycoproteins. The use of abundant available self-contained bioreactor reduces the cost of lab-grown meat. All companies in the world of lab-grown meat would agree that the price of the product is a major obstacle.

The $10 million round is led by Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), with additional investment from Milk and Honey Investments, LLC and the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA). Erel Margalit, founder and CEO of JVP & Margalit Startup City, a Jerusalem-based innovation space, explains the economic advantage of using tobacco as a growth factor. “Growth factors form the key building blocks for proteins grown in cells. But costs currently range from $50,000 to $500,000 per gram of FGF2 (basic fibroblast growth factor). BioBetter’s technology can reduce these costs to just $1 per gram.”

With your investment, BioBetter will expand to a larger pilot plant within the Tel Hai Industrial Park in the Upper Galilee region of Israel. The new site will increase its tobacco plant processing capacity, allowing it to meet its current global pool of commissions from cell-based meat producers. Shoseyov said that BioBetter is talking to several companies in the cultured meat space, but would not name any potential partners.

As for its immediate future, Shoseyov said: “We plan to expand our production plant during 2023 and start sales and supply of food-grade growth factors in the first quarter of 2024. The tobacco plant has a bad reputation, but the we put into practice. use.”

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