Apr 26, 2022
By Mohan Iyer
CellCrine: The World’s Cheapest Serum-Free Media

Cell cultured meat is finally coming into its moment. Broad adoption, however, will depend on dramatically reducing the cost of cell culture media and growth factors, which currently comprise over 50% of the total cost of cultured meat. 

CellCrine has discovered the role of certain proteins that improve cell growth. The cost of including these proteins in cell media is almost trivial, and in turn reduces the need for all other growth factors and recombinant proteins 90% or more. The impact on cost and growth is revolutionary. CellCrine’s media supplement can enable alternative meat manufacturers to reduce the cost of their most expensive process input.

It’s natural, and CellCrine believes it’s more natural than hammering cells with growth factors. CellCrine makes serum-free media supplements specifically formulated for each type of cell. Their pork and chicken cell media products are already being evaluated by potential customers. 

I followed Dr. Rodolfo Faudoa, CEO of CellCrine, as he went into the lab where he was showing me beautifully shaped myotubes forming in chicken muscle cells he was growing using his special media. I diverted his attention from his experiment for a few minutes to ask him these questions:

Co-founder and inventor Rodolfo Faudoa’s favorite stance – as they say, a watched cell does not differentiate.

What is CellCrine’s defensible magic*? (*due creds to Omri Amirav-Drory who taught me this term and why it’s important for every founder to answer)

Our media is not really magic, although it works like it. It’s a result of decades of research culturing difficult to grow cells in an optimized, predictable, serum-free environment. We spent years studying what cells need to grow and distilled certain key insights that have eluded others. Specifically, we isolated, tested, and patented the use of certain proteins, which are not a component of any media sold today. A very small concentration of these proteins in our thoughtfully formulated proprietary media products is sufficient to activate and manage cell culture in a manner not possible previously. 

Cultivated meat companies spend a lot of money developing media with marginally improved results, but remain far away from producing cultivated meat at the cost equivalent to traditional meat. You can think of our proprietary proteins as a “cell culture activator” that coordinates the cell growth process and brings out the best performance from within cells. If you are growing cell cultured meat using today’s best practices, perhaps like a maestro conducting a symphony bringing out the best in each musician. If you are a cultivated meat company scientist today, you likely have an uncoordinated and uncharacterized cacophony going on in your cell culture which invariably results in erratic and modest yields. With our patented media, you can convert your process overnight into a magical symphony that yields beautiful results each time. 

What have you accomplished during the program here?

We have established 4 master cell lines – two for chicken and two for pork cells. We have made essential media supplements tailored for each. With access to IndieBio’s deep network, we have initiated discussions and pilots with several companies working on cell cultured meat.  Even the companies who thought their cell culture processes were sophisticated are impressed with the added boost our media gives their cells.

Chicken cells grown in record-breaking media conditions

What’s next?  

While I am focused on expanding our product lines and continuing to perfect our media supplement, my business co-founder – Octavio Gonzalez – is hard at work forging win-win partnerships with selected cultured meat companies this year who are aligned with our vision. 

While we can purchase all our ingredients now, we will be scaling up production of our proteins to ensure the highest quality and lowest cost for our customers. Many companies are going through regulatory cycles right now; we need to become integrated into the workflow of those companies’ production quickly. 

We will continue to perfect our partnership business model as current pilot projects convert into valuable long-term strategic supply agreements. We will seek partners who respect our value-add while enjoying a dramatic reduction in their production cost of cell cultured meat.