CellulaREvolution transforming the future of meat production
With its innovative new processes to speed up and cut the costs of cultured meat production, CellulaREvolution is changing the face of the industry, removing animal exploitation and reducing the environmental impact of CO2 emissions. Here, Co-founder Leo Groenewegen tells us about the business and how investment is helping the team to go further.
Tell us a bit about your business? When and why was it established, what does it offer and to whom?
Starting life as a Newcastle University spin-out business, CellulaREvolution was founded in 2019 by Professor Che Connon, Leo Groenewegen and Dr Martina Miotto.
Its core focus is on novel cell culture technologies for cell therapy and the production of cultured meat.
The idea behind the business originated from Martina’s PhD research, which focused on the real-world application of tissue engineering. Her commercial idea centred around applying innovations in cell-based technology to the production of cultured meat.
She was encouraged to pursue the commercial ideas by Che Connon, who was originally her PhD supervisor and a serial entrepreneur, having founded two other successful spin-out businesses - Atelerix in 2017 and 3D BioTissues in 2019.
CellulaREvolution helps other cultured meat producing companies address major production challenges in the sector that could change our future meat consumption habits.
How has the company developed?
CellulaREvolution has expanded quickly since 2019, from its three initial Co-founders to a seven-strong team. We have recently moved from our original location in the Centre for Life to new offices in Newcastle's Biosphere to set up lab facilities.
We received initial support from Northern Accelerator and Innovate UK. This helped steer the company through the early commercialisation process.
We also benefited from Northern Accelerator's Executives into Business programme, which provided us with our CEO Leo Groenewegen.
What is the ethos behind the company, and has this changed or developed since you started?
CellulaREvolution focuses on innovative cell culture technologies for cell therapy and the production of cultured meat.
Cultured meat is grown in a lab and developed using cell-based technology rather than animals. It removes animal exploitation from the meat production process and reduces the environmental impact of CO2 emissions.
Our pioneering approach involves creating a continuous cell production system based on synthetic peptide coatings and novel bioreactor technology that facilitates cultured cells' production at a greater scale and a lower cost.
What’s the business’s USP?
CellulaREvolution is developing a continuous cell culture solution that means clean meat can be produced more quickly, efficiently and in greater quantities.
We have created two technologies, a synthetic peptide coating that eliminates the need for animal-derived serum and a bioreactor technology that facilitates the move from batch to continuous production.
CellulaREvolution's bioreactor technology decouples cell production from the surface area available by releasing cells continuously. By moving to continuous cell production, the area required to grow cells can be drastically reduced versus traditional production processes. This increases yield and lowers production costs.
These innovative processes eliminate the animal-derived serum from the process. This allows the production of a truly ‘clean’ ethical product.
What investment have you sourced for the business, and how has this helped you to go further?
We have sourced an array of investments both as equity, convertible notes, and non-dilutive funding.
Initial support in the pre-seed stage came from grant schemes and government, such as Northern Accelerator and Innovate UK. This was followed by investments from NorthStar Ventures and an angel investor. These initial investments made in 2019 allowed us to incorporate and set up our business operations. It also allowed us to build and commission our first prototype bioreactor.
In 2020 we received a COVID-19 continuity grant worth approximately £90,000, which allowed us to keep our business open and afloat during the pandemic and gave us more time to hit some of our key milestones before the next round of fundraising.
Early 2021, we announced we raised £1m from a set of investors, including CPT Capital, NorthStar Ventures (from two of their funds) and Stephan Schmidt. This money will be used for various things, including new lab and office space, equipment, further prototyping work, and expanding our team through additional recruitment.
What is the most important thing to remember when applying for funding/investment?
In all cases, whether it is grants or direct investments, it is key that you present people with a clear plan on what you aim to do and how the funding will allow you to achieve these clearly defined goals.
Can you give us an example of an impactful collaboration your business has been involved in? Why has it been a success?
We have been through a few interesting accelerator/innovation programs such FoodBytes, EIT Fan and we are due to begin the StartLife Accelerate Program very soon.
These programmes are great as they provide their member companies with great advice and training on business models, management, commercialisation and tech development.
UMi is currently running its Go Further campaign, which celebrates organisations with the ‘foresight to inform and respond to the changing world around them’. How does your organisation fulfil this?
CellulaRevolution’s technology supports innovative sectors making a change globally through novel types of healthier and more sustainable food and improved therapeutical options for certain diseases.
We are not responding to how the world is changing; we are one of the companies 'enabling' these changes to happen.
What has been your company’s greatest achievement?
The greatest achievement to date would most likely be the fact that we have developed and built our first prototype bioreactor in the past year. This is despite a challenging operating environment created by COVID-19.
We have also managed to grow and build an amazing team in such a short space of time.
What is your business’ short and long-term plans?
Our plans for the next year include:
• Produce the first minimal viable product (MVP) of our bioreactor (in the next 12 months or so)
• Collaborate with world-leading companies in the field by testing and trialling their specific cells and technologies with our solutions
• Grow our highly skilled team
• Recruit our first fully dedicated commercial staff member in preparation for our product launch
Our plans for the next four years include:
• To be the leader in continuous cell culturing technologies
• To have a range of bioreactors for sale, starting from very small scale to large industrially used models
• Working with influential clients across the globe and selling our products into cultured meat, cell therapy and biologics companies
• To become a thought and innovation leader in our chosen field
• Grow an even larger, more awesome team
The Go Further Investment Index is an opportunity to engage, showcase and celebrate progressive businesses who are pushing through and achieving their aspirations through access to investment, impactful collaborations, and the foresight to inform and respond to the changing world around them.
It is open to Northern Powerhouse and Scotland-based businesses of all sizes and from all sectors, but we are particularly interested in businesses operating within bio-science, health tech, clean energy, decarbonisation, circular economy, data and digitisation, space and satellite, tech, AI and advanced manufacturing.
For more info visit www.gofurtherindex.co.uk.