As cultivated meat company Magic Valley edges closer to completing a US$3 million ($4.5 million) raise and applying for regulatory approval, the Melbourne-based startup has struck a deal with Biocellion, a US virtual simulator of living system behaviours.
Seattle-headquartered Biocellion currently operates in more than 13 countries with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to non-profits and academic institutions. Its notable work includes modelling therapies for Celgene's pharmaceutical products for blood cancer, and modelling skin growth and response to materials in bandages and sunscreen developed by Procter & Gamble.
Magic Valley founder and CEO Paul Bevan tells Business News Australia the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed will help speed up the company's scaling up.
"We're pretty well aligned in terms of what we're trying to do, and Biocellion are looking to get involved outside of life sciences and in the cellular agriculture or cultivated meat industry," Bevan says.
"We've been in discussions for a little while about what we could do together, which I think is a solution that is beneficial for both companies."
In late March, Magic Valley introduced its premium pork made without harming animals, following the November prototype launch of cultivated lamb.
Both products are made by taking a small skin biopsy from live animals and turning the skin cells into what are known as induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which grow in an unlimited and scalable way and can also be made into muscle and fat - the main components of meat.
Bevan says this differentiates Magic Valley from its competitors in the space who tend to use of foetal bovine serum - a byproduct of the slaughter process - to grow the cells.
"In our cell culturing process, we have taken the view from the start that we need to use animal origin-free media and products in the process," he says, with the exception being the minimally invasive "skin scraping" that is part of the process.
"In traditional cell culturing processes, foetal bovine serum is used as well as a lot of other components that are derived from animal sources. We avoid all of that."
The tie-up with Biocellion will give Magic Valley a clearer understanding of cellular behaviour in bioreactors, with the goal of ultimately improving bioreactor design and increasing efficiency in the production of cultivated meat products.
Biocellion CEO Simon Kahan says that together, the two companies are shaping a future where technology and biology converge to address global protein demands.
"We're excited to collaborate with Magic Valley using our advanced virtual experiments technology in order to accelerate the development of bioreactor designs and drive efficiency in cultivated meat production," Kahan says.
"At Magic Valley, we are committed to revolutionising the way meat is produced, with a focus on sustainability and ethical practices. By collaborating with Biocellion, we aim to unlock valuable insights into cellular behaviour, enabling us to create delicious cultivated meat products efficiently at scale," adds Bevan.
Brinc, a global venture accelerator headquartered in Hong Kong, strategically supports both Magic Valley and Biocellion and is enthusiastic about their collaboration to accelerate their growth and expansion.
"As a keen advocate of food technology innovation, Brinc proudly supports the collaboration between Magic Valley and Biocellion, which represents a significant step towards addressing the challenges of sustainable protein production," says Brinc CEO and founder Manav Gupta.
"This partnership showcases the potential that interdisciplinary solutions can play to reshape the future of the food industry."
Bevan clarifies Magic Valley's capital raise has taken longer than expected, but remains on track alongside regulatory applications. The raise will also go towards creating a cultivated beef prototype.
"We’re just looking to close out the raise very shortly. It’s taken a little bit longer than we were hoping or expecting given the current climate, so that’s coming to a close now," he says.
"Most of our investment has come internationally as opposed to within Australia, which is an interesting scenario.
"We are just preparing our formal application to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to submit that in the in the coming months, and we’re looking to receive approval and commercialise by the end of 2024."
When Magic Valley announced its lamb meat prototype in November 2022, Bevan made the bold claim that by 2024 cultivated meat products would be "indistinguishable" from traditionally farmed meat, with the ability to enhance nutrients to positively impact the human population.
"With the global population predicted to reach 10 billion people by 2050, the traditional methods of animal agriculture are simply inadequate to meet the protein needs of our future generations," the founder said at the time.
"The move away from traditional meat consumption is motivated by many different reasons for Australians, but the science has shown that if we are not feeding livestock and instead feeding ourselves, this is a viable way to nourish the human population beyond 2050."
Magic Valley estimates cultivated meat has the potential to save the lives of the 70 billion animals slaughtered per year. It is also projected that a complete replacement of conventional meat with cultivated meat would result in an incredible 92 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 95 per cent reduction in land use and a 78 per cent reduction in water use.
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