UC Davis receives $3.55m grant to investigate long-term viability of cell-cultured meat

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

UC Davis professor David Block, an expert in fermentation technology with appointments in the department of chemical engineering and department of viticulture and enology, will lead the NSF-funded project for research on cultivated meat. Photo: UC Davis
UC Davis professor David Block, an expert in fermentation technology with appointments in the department of chemical engineering and department of viticulture and enology, will lead the NSF-funded project for research on cultivated meat. Photo: UC Davis

Related tags: lab-grown, cultivated meat, cultured meat

The University of California, Davis, (UC Davis) has received a grant of up to $3.55m from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Growing Convergence program to explore the long-term sustainability and commercial viability of cell-cultured (a.k.a. 'cultivated') meat.

The grant grew out of the UC Davis Cultivated meat Consortium (CMC)​, established in the fall of 2019 in conjunction with the Biotechnology Program, and functions as an “informally structured group of campus colleagues, including faculty, administrators, staff and senior trainees (e.g. graduate students and postdoctoral scholars), interested in the development of cultivated meat and related technologies.”

The Good Food Institute (GFI) provided a letter of support of the project and will serve on the external advisory board alongside other industry partners, to assess research progress, recommend new research directions, and expand the scope or impact of projects through new collaborations in industry and academia.

Commenting​on the significance of the project –  specifically the need for cross-collaboration between public and private sectors to advance the development of cultivated meat – Erin Reese Clayton, associate director of science and technology at GFI said, “While cultivated meat companies across the globe are conducting similar research, most of that knowledge will remain in-house.

"As much as we cheer on every company’s advance, we can’t count on any one company to rapidly develop all of the solutions necessary for large-scale commercialization of cost-competitive cultivated meat.”

Project goals and targets

According to UC Davis, the research goals include: developing stable stem cell lines from which cell-cultured meat can be grown; developing inexpensive, plant-based media in which to grow the cells; and assessing the nutritional value, stability and sensory qualities of cultivated meat products.

The project, look at both “unstructured​” products such as for sausage or burger patties and “structured”​ products that look and cook more like natural cuts of meat or fish, said UC Davis.

Another arm of the project, led by Karen McDonald, professor of chemical engineering at UC Davis, will evaluate the technical and economic hurdles of developing a sustainable cultivated meat industry, including life cycle analysis of the entire process.

UC Davis has several strengths to apply to its exploration into the future of cultivated meat, including expertise in cultivating stem cells, biomanufacturing and chemical engineering, and in food science and fermentation, which has attracted a lot of student interest in recent years, according to the university.

“The question is, how can we make a pharmaceutical cell culture process look more like food-grade fermentation?”​ Block said. “We need the right mix for high-quality ingredients at a reasonable price.”

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