AcCELLerate-ON awards CAD $900K to four projects that put Canadian cellular agriculture on the map

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AUTHOR: Fiona Holland

The Canadian Food Innovation Network and Ontario Genomics have announced the four winning projects of its AcCELLerate-ON cell-based agriculture competition, which will now benefit from funding worth CAD $900,000 (£565K).

Winners were chosen for their novel approach to developing cell-based food and drink and their potential to bring economic growth to the country and help turn the province of Ontario into a leader in the cell-based protein sector.

The four Ontario-based organisations receiving a portion of the funding are: Evolved, Ardra Inc., the University of Toronto, and Cell Ag Tech. Each team is working to shrink the gap between cell-based and traditional meat.

Joseph Lake, CEO of the Canadian Food Innovation Network, said: “Transformative innovation is the only way we can solve global food challenges. These four homegrown projects represent a unique and sustainable approach to feeding a growing global population while demonstrating the potential of Canadian food innovation.”

One of the winning groups, Evolved, situated in Kitchener, will use the funding to continue its work designing a cultivated pork belly substitute. Using scaffold-free whole-cuts, the start-up says its product has same structure and biochemical qualities as the traditional meat version.

The team works with proprietary cell sheet engineering processes to develop their whole-cut cellular meat. It hopes to eventually make cell-based meat from any kind of livestock cells, reacting to how consumption habits change in the future.

Toronto-based Ardra Inc. secured funding for the development of a heme alternative through precision fermentation. Heme is a precursor of hemoglobin found in human and animal blood, and is key to giving meat its unique taste.

The company has already had several requests for larger sample amounts from several big flavour groups, according to Ontario Genomics.

Money awarded to The University of Toronto’s collaborative project with lab-grown meat start-up Myo Palate will be used to improve technology for the production of cell-based pork. They aim to eradicate the need for external biological and chemical agents, which are often used in the development and maturation of pig muscle in bioreactors.

The research, which is being led by the university’s biomedical engineering professor Dr Michael Garton, will try to create synthetic gene circuits that can be merged with the initial stem cells, and can then administer muscle transformation and a process of maturation, meaning there is no need for external agents.

The final group, Cell Ag Tech, will use its portion of the funding to grow 2D and 3D snapper cells to benefit the Canadian seafood production industry.

Together with CCRM/Cytiva, which work to scale-up cellular manufacturing companies, the start-up will aim to prepare itself for commercialisation and production, by carrying out assessments on various elements, including the nutritional value of the snapper cells, and the differences in protein expression between the 2D and 3D cells.

Each of the teams are predicted to complete their projects in around 12 to 18 months’ time.

The competition was launched in November 2021 as a means to realise the potential for cellular agriculture within the Ontario region.

A 2021 report from Ontario Genomics revealed Canada’s cellular agricultural industry could reach CAD $12.5 billion (£7.7Bn), and produce up to 142,000 jobs across the country in the future.

Dr Bettina Hamelin, President and CEO of Ontario Genomics, said: “It is very clear that cellular agriculture is garnering the interest and dollars of the global investor community.

“Today’s announcement will help Ontario’s most innovative food start-ups and researchers get to the next level by supporting product development, job creation and revenue generation. By leveraging our existing strengths, this partnership between CFIN and Ontario Genomics is a critical step to growing Ontario’s cellular agriculture ecosystem.”

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