Steakholder Foods Gets $1M Grant to Bioprint Cultured Eel

RAPID

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Deep tech food company Steakholder Foods (Nasdaq: STKH) could soon add new 3D printed cultured seafood to its product portfolio. Thanks to a $1 million grant from the Singapore Israel Industrial R&D Foundation (SIIRD), the startup plans to develop 3D printed structured eel and grouper products with Singaporean cultivated seafood startup Umami Meats.

Through this initiative, the partnering companies aim to develop a scalable process for producing structured cultivated fish products and offer them in the only country in the world where cultivated meat has regulatory approval: Singapore.

Steakholder promises to use its newly developed 3D bioprinting technology and bioinks to mimic the flaky texture of cooked fish that was recently submitted for a provisional patent application. The project’s first prototype, a structured hybrid grouper product, is expected to be completed during the first quarter of 2023.

Multi-nozzle 3D bioprinter at Steakholder Foods headquarters in Rehovot, Israel. Image courtesy of Steakholder Foods.

Cultivated meat 101

Formerly known as MeaTech, the Israeli cultured meat tech developer received backing from Ashton Kutcher‘s investment group in 2021 and raised $12 million in venture rounds before going public in March 2021. Becoming the first Nasdaq-listed cultivated meat company drew even more attention and helped it price its U.S. initial public offering (IPO) at $10.30 while raising $25 million from its 2.4 million share offering.

Much of the company’s work has been spearheaded towards its unique multiple-nozzle modular printing head developed in-house. According to Steakholder, the new technology can produce complex meat products with pinpoint precision at an industrial production rate without impacting cell viability. If this technology is as breakthrough as the company claims, it could lead the charge toward the mass production of cultured meats using cells and biomaterials.

Developed at Steakholder’s private subsidiary in the Rehovot Science Park, the epicenter of Israel’s food-tech industry, the modular bioprinting design allows flexibility with up to hundreds of nozzles and multiple bioinks with low- and high-viscosity states the firm. Since Steakholder is getting ready to commercialize its bioprinter to third parties in the food tech sector, it has created software to go with it, offering manufacturers complete digital control to produce a wide variety of cultured meat products based on any desired complex 3D models.

Lab-grown meat anyone?

In 2022, Steakholder launched an industrial-scale printer and received its first US-granted patent for physically manipulating cultivated muscle tissue. Moving forward with a mission to make real meat sustainable, it also demonstrated how it 3D prints cultured meat live to attendees of the London Future Food Tech conference. Another 2022 highlight was the announcement of the proof of concept of Omakase Beef Morsels, described as a first-of-its-kind, highly marbled 3D-printed cultured beef cut designed for premium dining experiences.

Aside from its bioprinting technology achievements, Steakholder has engaged in collaborations since its inception in 2019. With strategic players like the Sound Ventures collective, cultured fat B2B supplier Peace of Meat, mycoprotein maker ENOUGH, and Umami Meats, the company expects to accelerate the journey to becoming the global leader in the cultivated meat industry. Its latest collaborative initiative with Umami Meats is a significant step forward in the company’s commercialization strategy for 2023.

Reflecting on the new grant and deal, Steakholder Foods VP of Business Development Yair Ayalon said “collaborations such as this demonstrate our commitment to working with the industry and advancing the cultivated meat industry.”

Similarly, Mihir Pershad, CEO and Founder of Umami Meats, expressed his excitement for this partnership, especially since they are paving the way for a more sustainable food system that will help preserve the marine ecosystem while meeting customer demand.

Bioprinting commitment

As 2023 begins, Steakholder Foods CEO Arik Kaufman voiced his enthusiasm for the growth of the brand, primarily the upgrade of its industrial-scale 3D printer, which he says is “pushing forward with the biology department development for our in-house growth media and cell proliferation across species, accelerating business development and marketing activities.”

In a letter to company shareholders, Kaufman also highlighted the recent progress that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have made with cultivated meat approvals, culminating so far in Upside Foods’ “no questions” letter from the FDA. This vote of confidence has paved the way for the team at Steakholder to submit products for approval in Singapore, the U.S., and Europe in 2023.

“I am excited to see how the team is pooling together all resources towards advancing our growth methodologies at scale, commercializing our printing capabilities, and creating remarkably cultivated and hybrid products while working towards our end goal of producing cultivated steaks at scale. These strategic developments are aimed at achieving our accelerated go-to-market strategy that is focused on the commercialization of our 3D bio-printer through partnerships and collaborations in 2023,” concluded Kaufman.

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