Y Combinator Backs Orbillion Bio In First Cell-Cultured Red Meat Investment

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Orbillion Bio has become the latest startup to join the Y Combinator, becoming the prestigious accelerator’s first cell-cultured red meat investment. The female-founded food tech is laser-focused on developing slaughter-free and sustainable alternatives to premium “heritage” meat species – think elk, lamb and wagyu beef. 

California-based Orbillion Bio will be joining the upcoming Winter ‘21 cohort at Y Combinator (YC), the lauded accelerator credited with launching some of the most well-known tech firms to date, from Stripe to DoorDash and Airbnb. Prior to backing Orbillion Bio, YC has made several alternative protein investments, including plant-based players Eclipse Foods, Kuleana and Rebellyous Foods and cell-based seafood meat company Shiok Meats, but Orbillion Bio marks its first-ever startup dedicated to cultivated premium land mammal meat

Before being accepted into YC, Orbillion Bio was part of Hong Kong-based accelerator Brinc and New York-based Big Idea Ventures cohorts last year.

Founded and led by scientist and engineer Dr. Patricia Bubner, who built Orbillion Bio with CTO Dr. Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay, former director of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and COO Samet Yildirim, who headed global technology and innovation at German pharmaceutical major Boehringer Ingelheim, the young startup isn’t developing your usual animal meats. 

Orbillion is developing cultivated premium heritage breeds of meat. (Source: Orbillion Bio)

Our advanced bioprocessing enables us to rapidly isolate, screen and select cells that are best suited for commercial scale food production. This allows us to move from sample to finished product 5x faster than other companies.

Dr. Patricia Bubner, Co-Founder & CEO, Orbillion Bio

On a mission to diversify the range of nutritious cultivated meat products available, Orbillion Bio is taking on much-loved premium breeds such as wagyu beef, lamb, elk and bison jerky – and they’ve managed to do it within just four months of R&D. Their proprietary technology is unique in the way it can produce thousands of tissue samples, which enables the firm to constantly perfect their media and tissue combinations. 

“Our advanced bioprocessing enables us to rapidly isolate, screen and select cells that are best suited for commercial scale food production. This allows us to move from sample to finished product 5x faster than other companies,” Bubner told Green Queen Media

And because Orbillion is focused on high-end meats, they are that much closer to reaching price parity with its conventional counterparts. With the latest support from YC, the startup will bring its production costs down even more, ultimately making delicious yet sustainable and ethical premium heritage meats accessible to the masses.

“Our first goal is to get to price parity with premium meats, and we will bring the cost down as we scale. That means new heritage meat quality at a more accessible price point,” Bubner explained, adding that the company’s latest YC achievement is the product of an entire team of hard work from the entire Orbillion team. 

“I feel so proud of my team – my co-founders Samet and Gabriel, our lead scientist Laura who has years of experience in cell biology and cell line engineering and now gets to work with all these heritage species that no one has ever looked at before,” Bubner told us. “And the people that support us – Ron Shigeta, Sophie from DART Labs, and everyone at YC who understand that there is a sense of urgency to change the way we produce meat.” 

Wagyu beef is among some of the animal meats that Orbillion is cell-culturing. (Source: Orbillion Bio)

Our first goal is to get to price parity with premium meats, and we will bring the cost down as we scale. That means new heritage meat quality at a more accessible price point.

Dr. Patricia Bubner, Co-Founder & CEO, Orbillion Bio

For Bubner, the backing from the renowned accelerator proves Orbillion’s potential to “become a huge company” and “marks us as the most promising cultured meat startup in the ‘second wave’”

By second wave, the CEO means the next frontier of cell-based meat innovation, where food techs are going beyond cultivating molecularly identical popular meats like pork, beef and chicken, taking it further to develop the most delicious and flavourful meats out there, and even working on whole muscle cuts. 

It’s something that fellow cell-based startup Vow Food, who are based in Sydney, are also working on. Vow has differentiated itself in the alternative protein space by culturing exotic meats such as kangaroo, alpaca and goat, driven by co-founders Geoge Peppou and Tim Noakesmith’s belief that cellular agriculture technology can enable the diversification of the animal proteins humans consume and elevate the culinary experience, all the while eliminating unsustainable food production.

Orbillion is bullish that this will ultimately be the future of protein, “with 10 billion people to feed by 2050 and a food system already on the brink”. But Bubner tells us that there will need to be an army of startups to tackle the challenges that the climate crisis will bring across all industries, and that’s why joining YC is so exciting. 

“We love YC because they are committed to addressing climate change by funding the best companies in the space,” she said. “We have some amazing batch mates.” 


Lead image courtesy of Orbillion Bio.


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