June 13, 2023

The bio-production platform Enzymit has announced the successful production of insulin substituents, in partnership with food technology company Aleph Farms, that can reduce the cost and development time for producing cultivated meat at scale.

The two Israel-based companies have got together to develop non-animal-derived serum protein substitutes/imitations that promote and support cell growth. Enzymit says this is “one of the most prohibitive expenses in scaling up cultivated meat production”. Such proteins are not widely available in the market at the quantity, quality and cost necessary for large-scale production.

Aleph Farms turned to Enzymit to co-develop novel insulin substituents in micro-organisms that can fulfil the function of proteins found naturally in animals – and do so with greater desired activity per molecule. Enzymit uses artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning to create the insulin substituents as processing aids for making cultivated meat.

Taking cultivated meat mainstream

“Finding more suitable processing aids for the production of cultivated meat is imperative for driving economies of scale and taking cultivated meat mainstream,” said Neta Lavon, Aleph Farms chief technology officer. “This innovation, combining Enzymit’s protein design and experimental capabilities with our team’s expertise in cellular agriculture, is helping to build the foundations for our sector to achieve cost-efficiency and long-term impact.”

It is early days, but the success of this collaboration opens the door to additional benefits far beyond the cultivation of cow cells. As insulin is a highly conserved protein across mammals and other species, it has the potential to similarly influence the production of other cultivated meat types, such as porcine (pigs), ovine (sheep), and poultry.

Aleph Farms CEO
Gideon Lapidoth, CEO of Enzymit: “Aleph Farms has been an invaluable partner for this initiative.”

“Aleph Farms has been an invaluable partner for this initiative,” commented Gideon Lapidoth, CEO of Enzymit. “With recombinant proteins currently accounting for the overwhelming majority of cell culture costs, creating highly stable and more active insulin substituents can markedly reduce the cost of growth media and increase efficiency in producing cultivated meat at scale.”

AI to the fore

Utilising proprietary computational design algorithms and high-throughput testing capabilities, Enzymit was able to quickly develop a variety of insulin substituents and experimentally assess their functionality. All those selected were soluble proteins expressed in the bacterium E. coli and purified without requiring refolding, complex purification steps, or other treatments.

Enzymit said that further screening resulted in several leading candidates exhibiting superior results in activity for cell culturing while requiring minimal concentration for activation. These new proteins – which demand notably fewer downstream purification and maturation processes – dramatically reduce production time and costs.

Enzymit was founded in 2020 by experts in computational protein design, bioengineering, and molecular biology. The company is headquartered in Ness Ziona, Israel and is now building a cell-free production platform designed to make bio-production faster, simpler and more cost-effective.

The company leverages complex computational design and deep learning algorithms to create novel enzymes for real-world applications. These enzymes need to be highly stable and robust. For the food industry they need to withstand higher temperatures.

Aleph Farms Enzymit
Marcus Samuelsson (right) with Aleph Farms CEO Didier Toubia. [Credit: Noi Einav]

Aleph Farms is an older business, founded in 2017, which is designing new ways to grow animal products that improve sustainability, food security and animal welfare in food systems.

The company utilised cellular agriculture technology to unveil what it says was the world’s first cultivated thin-cut steak in 2018 and the world’s first cultivated rib-eye steak in 2021, followed by cultivated collagen in 2022.

Under its product brand, Aleph Cuts, the company plans to launch its first product, the Petit Steak, grown from the non-modified cells of a premium Angus cow. For its contributions to climate leadership including a net zero commitment made in 2020, it has received accolades from the World Economic Forum and the United Nations.

The company had a coup recently when celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson became an investor, culinary advisor and launch partner. While much of Samuelsson’s rise to fame has been via his 13 restaurants around the world, being a New York Times best-selling author and a TV personality, Samuelsson has also been using his background to elevate diversity in the culinary world. As part of this designation, he will work closely with Aleph Farms as it approaches commercialisation of Aleph Cuts. He will offer a new take on steak.

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