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There’s a new cellular agriculture startup on the block, but unlike many others, it doesn’t want to make a name for itself as a brand of cultivated meat. Instead, it wants to help other companies that are using cell-ag to scale up and commercialise. With its “seamless” platform, Unicorn Biotechnologies is making its mission to accelerate the path to market for disruptive cell-based solutions that will displace animals, from lab-grown lobster to cultured steak.
Unicorn Biotechnologies has just launched this month to offer its manufacturing platform to help other cell-ag companies get to market. The British biotech startup, based between Cambridge and Sheffield, has developed a fully automated production solution that it describes as seamless and affordable, helping companies who are making everything from cell-based meat get “from the lab bench to supermarket shelves.”
According to Unicorn, the firm’s goal is to be at the forefront of pushing the “next frontier” in the cell-based industry—getting companies who have already made pilot-scale prototypes to that next step towards commercialisation.
Its platform is fully automated, combining hardware and software and its own analytics to make the entire process efficient and thereby reducing costs, all the while improving the quality of products too.
What’s different from its platform is that it is designed specifically to scale cell-based meat products, not recombinant proteins and vaccines, which existing industrial bio-manufacturing equipment is most suited for.
Unicorn wants to offer its proprietary platform as a B2B service, with an aim to help displace traditional animal agriculture, which is currently driving a fifth of global GHG emissions and a major contributor to deforestation, not to mention the ethical and health impacts of the industry.
Plans to go global
Speaking to Green Queen Media, Unicorn co-founder and CEO Jack Reid shared that the firm, though still in its first year, has long-term plans to go global. Reid started the company last year with Dr. Adam Glen, as part of the prestigious Entrepreneur First accelerator program backed by names like LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffmann.
“We have plans to provide our technology globally,” shared Reid. “We already have manufacturing partners in the UK and APAC, and are looking to expand our international footprint and operations over the coming years.”
Currently, the startup is being fuelled by pre-seed funding from Entrepreneur First, as well as from HAX, the hard-tech-focused VC arm of SOSV, which lists players like Upside Foods (formerly Memphis Meats), NotCo and Geltor among its alt-protein portfolio firms. And as Unicorn looks to expand, it’s got plans to raise another round of investment soon.
“We will be opening our next round of fundraising later this year, likely in September,” Reid told Green Queen Media.
As the cell-based sector matures, more companies like Unicorn are emerging to offer their B2B service to shorten the time to market for cultured meat makers. While regulation is the primary hurdle that startups face, so is scale and cost.
At the moment, only Eat Just has received regulatory approval to sell its cultured chicken bites in the Singapore market.
Other companies that are offering similar platforms to help cultivated startups scale include Matrix Meats, an Ohio-based firm that has created nano-fibre scaffolding and scale-up manufacturing service. Currently, the seed-funded firm says it has active partnerships with 14 cell-based meat producers across 7 countries.
Animal Alternative Technologies (AAT), a Cambridge University spinout, has created an AI-powered “Renaissance Farm” to help not just cell-based meat makers but any food company that wants to jump into the sector. Co-founded by Clarisse Beurrier, who was formerly at cultured pork belly maker Higher Steaks, the startup is distinguishing itself from its competitors, saying its scale-up service enables the development of whole-cut cultivated proteins.
Lead image courtesy of Unicorn Biotechnologies.