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South Korean startup TissenBioFarm has confirmed that it netted $400,000 USD from Mirae Holdings to further develop a manufacturing platform that can produce cultivated and plant-based meats with realistic marbling. The company is an offshoot of Thyssen Biopharmaceuticals, which has traditionally focused on tissue engineering and artificial organ development.
A joint enterprise led by Wonil Han and Youngmoon Kwon, Thyssen created proprietary technology for the effective 3D bioprinting of transplant organs, including livers and kidneys. The potential application for cultured meat became apparent, leading to a streamlining of processes, new technology, and initial meat prototypes under the banner of TissenBioFarm.
Preparing for scale
Tissen claims to be able to manufacture cultivated meat, with realistic texture and marbling, in kilogram units. This is within a laboratory setting. It also claims that when used at a mass-production scale, the technology will be able to cut lead times by more than 50,000. Domestic and foreign patents have been submitted to protect the IP, while continued development of new bio-inks continues, thanks to the Mirae investment.
“With this investment, we will develop our own manufacturing system that can simultaneously produce cultured meat and vegetable substitute meat with meat and marbling. We will speed things up,” Wonil Han, CEO of Tissen, said in a statement.
To date, Tissen has created three bio-inks, all edible and capable of being used in mass production. The inks are reported to cost in the region of $0.33 per 100 grams. Designed to add nutritional value, texture and flavour enhancements to cultivated and plant-based meats, the inks are a critical part of Tissen’s 3D printing model. It further motivates the simultaneous progression of not just cultivated but also plant-based protein.
Customisable cultivated meats?
Building on its foundation as a custom organ engineering firm, Tissen seeks to retain a level of customisation for its future clients. The startup has revealed plans to offer consumers a choice of nutrition, flavour, and shape when selecting their cuts of meat ahead of manufacturing.
“Thyssen Biopharmaceuticals [and Tissen] is showing innovation in mass production technology beyond the limitations of the existing cultured meat production method represented by cells, culture medium, and support,” Kim Jae-hyeon of recent investor Mirae Holdings, said in a statement. “We expect to grow into a future food company that will solve the problems of animal ethics in the slaughter process and imbalance between supply and demand in the meat market by promoting the popularization of cultured meat in the meat market.”
Research into improved bio-inks and production technology continues, with no projected commercial launch date offered yet.
Printed meat solutions
Singapore’s Audra Labs is taking a similar tack to Tissen. Initially looking to create plant-based meats only, the startup, also coming from a tissue engineering background, has highlighted its plans to approach cultivated developments in the future. Whereas Tissen uses bio-inks, Audra creates protein fibres, which can be printed and arranged to incorporate muscle and fat elements, as they would appear in conventional meat. CEO Dr Andrew Wan seeks to use his printing technique to develop regionally appropriate meats that will pave the way toward widespread acceptance of alternative meats.
In Israel, Redefine Meat is, arguably, leading the 3D printed plant-based sector. Having snagged $180 million in total funding, the startup is partnered with more than 200 domestic restaurants. Global partners have also come on board to serve realistic vegan whole cuts.
All photos by TissenBioFarm.