GrowPro aims to produce tomorrow's food smart, sustainable, and innovatively using bioreactors instead of traditional livestock. This is a completely new way of producing food using biotechnology, significantly impacting meat production.
We will develop bioreactor technology for up-scaling muscle cell production combined with a much-needed development of sustainable growth media. For this, we will use by-products from the food industry to tailor-make a product that humans can consume. Finally, we will mix this novel animal protein with actual food products.
C. Andreassen has had international research stay abroad during spring 2020, visiting Prof. Mark Post?s lab at the University of Maastricht. The stay abroad had, unfortunately, to be aborted half through due to the Covid-19 situation. We have arranged three project meetings with all partners of the project. We have, in addition, arranged project meetings for partners of WP1, including Hugo A. Jakobsen from NTNU in 2019, in addition to several internal meetings in Nofima. M. E. Pedersen, C. Andreassen, and S. B. Rønning have attended a conference in the USA (theme Clean Meat). Mark Post and S. B. Rønning have hosted three times a scientific conference on cultured meat, of which M. E. Pedersen was invited as keynote speaker, and both Dimitrios Tzimorotas and Christel Andreassen presented posters. Mark Post and S. B. Rønning are hosting a new digital conference on the same topics. S.B. Rønning and M.E Pedersen are NKJ Network Consortium-Nordic Take members and arranged a two-day digital workshop in 2021.
Torill Hagen from NTNU finished her master thesis in June 2019, which was work performed in WP1 and WP3 in the project. WP1: We conducted several experiments with primary muscle cells in the bench bioreactor (1-liter bottle) and spinner flasks. We have measured glucose, lactate, DNA amount, and cell viability, in addition to gene expression. The cells were still viable after 38 days of culture, and the cells produce animal proteins. The cells are still dividing and can migrate after 38 days in a bioreactor. The manuscript is submitted to the Journal of Biotechnology. We are now progressing on kinetics experiments, focusing on the range of temperatures (35, 38, 41 °C) and pH. WP2: We have produced several types of hydrolysates made of bi-products from industry, including chicken rest-raw materials, backbone from cod, blood plasma, egg white, and eggshell membranes. We have performed size exclusion chromatography of the hydrolysates, showing various profiles for the different materials. We have tested all materials in cell culture, both as stimulating agents in the presence of serum and as serum replacement. None of the tested products were toxic to the cells; many of the materials were promising. Of all the by-products tested, pork plasma hydrolysates and yeast extract were the most promising materials. These materials can replace serum during cultivation and, as such, can be included in a tailor-made serum-free media. This work is now published in the peer-reviewed paper Food and Function. Follow-up experiments included fractionation based on Sec for two selected hydrolysates (egg white and blood plasma) to investigate the effect of fractionated by-product hydrolysate supplementation on cell culture performance. Our preliminary results demonstrated that including hydrolysate fractions in cell culture increases a dramatic increase in cell number compared with control cells. WP3: We have prepared edible microcarriers from collagen and eggshellmembrane (ESM), and we have analyzed them using SEM and microscopy. Furthermore, we tested the microcarriers using spinner flask bioreactors, and the beads were stable. Muscle cells were able to attach and proliferate to all the beads. Analysis of muscle markers and cytoskeleton confirmed muscle phenotype and normal cell morphology. The publication is under revision in the journal Biomaterials. WP4: We have optimized the protocol for protein analysis, both for western blot and proteomics. We have produced small muscle pieces using 3D bioprinting but have had problems getting the cells to differentiate. We have analyzed the muscle pieces with proteomics (LC-MS) and see expressions of several muscle-specific proteins, including Desmin. WP5: Nine popular scientific articles have been published in Norwegian newspapers. Three scientific posters and two scientific lectures have been presented at international conferences. A dialogue meeting on cultured meat has been arranged with the Norwegian Biotechnology Council, Ruralis, and Tekna. S. B. Rønning has given more than 30 lectures, participated in 2 panel debates, had 20 interviews in mass media, and participated in TV documentaries at NRK. S. B. Rønning has had pupils from high school on visiting day, setting up a new exhibition at the Cultural Historical museum in Oslo and hosting several science dinners.
GrowPro has enabled Nofima to develop fundamental knowledge and skill in cultured meat research and allow Norway to be at the forefront of the research field. Furthermore, the methodology and expertise acquired have laid the foundation for future research and are necessary for the Norwegian food industry. Results and technology generated have helped lay a foundation for approaching challenges related to ethical and social issues, consumer acceptance, market potential, and economic analysis, industrial upscaling, and regulatory concerns. GrowPro has also increased Nofimas visibility as a research institution. Finally, GrowPro has strengthened competitiveness in the Norwegian food and biotechnology industry through new competence, novel market opportunities, and increased innovation potential. GrowPro has contributed to publishing in scientific journals and popular science papers, thereby increasing the awareness about these enabling technologies among users and target groups.
Research on sustainable protein production is essential to address the global societal challenge pointed out by the Bionær Program; the urgent need to find ways to produce food using ground-breaking new, enabling and fundamentally different technologies. A revolutionary new and promising alternative to the traditional way of producing animal proteins is cultivation of muscle cells outside the living animal in a bioreactor, thus bypassing animal production. The first laboratory-grown burger that was available for tasting in 2013 had a production cost of 2.8 mill NOK. Thus knowing that it is possible, the current challenge is to succeed with a large-scale production that is economically and environmentally friendly. GrowPro aims to develop cutting-edge cell cultivation technology to enable sustainable large-scale production of animal proteins for human consumption. We will develop bioreactor technology for up-scaling cell production in combination with a much needed development of sustainable growth media. For this, we will use by-products from the food industry to tailor-make a sustainable growth media based on their nutritional constitution, and furthermore exploit their functionality as microcarriers during protein production in bioreactors. Finally, we will assess the feasibility of inclusion of this novel animal protein raw material in composite food products. Overall, GrowPro will lead to sustainable production of animal proteins by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and use of land and water resources, recycling of resources, and innovative use of by-products from the food industry, as well as value creation through more efficient protein production. GrowPro will also open up for fundamentally new market potentials and business opportunities.