CellulaREvolution

CellulaREvolution aims to be the leader in continuous cell culturing technology.

CellulaREvolution
CellulaREvolution

CellulaREvolution has developed two products: i) a peptide (a chemical compound that is made of a small chain of two or more amino acids) coating that increases cell proliferation in serum-free conditions, and ii) a bioreactor capable of serum-free continuous production of adherent cells. The company focuses on three applications for its technology: i) cultured meat, ii) biologics, and iii) cell therapies.

MISSION

CellulaREvolution’s mission is to be the leader in continuous cell culturing technologies, providing our clients with highly sophisticated and innovative products. We develop enabling technologies for companies growing and culturing various types of cells.


CellulaREvolution has developed two products: i) a peptide (a chemical compound that is made of a small chain of two or more amino acids) coating that increases cell proliferation in serum-free conditions, and ii) a bioreactor capable of serum-free continuous production of adherent cells. The company focuses on three applications for its technology: i) cultured meat, ii) biologics, and iii) cell therapies.

Cultured meat, beyond being cruelty-free, requires far less land and water than conventional meat and will exponentially reduce the carbon footprint of meat production. It also eliminates the severe environmental repercussions of animal waste and contamination via runoff. In August 2019, in an article entitled ‘Eat less meat: UN climate-change report calls for change to human diet’, Nature wrote: “By 2050, dietary changes could free up several million square kilometres of land, and reduce global CO2 emissions by up to eight billion tonnes per year, relative to business as usual, the scientists estimate.”

However, the scaling-up of cellular meat production represents a considerable and costly cell-culture hurdle. A single small steak, typically containing 10 billion cells, could take an entire month to produce using a single bioreactor and traditional batch processes. CellulaREvolution’s aim is to enable safe, commercially viable acceleration and scale-up of the production process for cultured meat. Its technology and bioreactors are all designed to address the scaling issue currently faced by B2C cultured-meat companies and to enable the future production at a commercial scale of cultured-meat products, making them available at mass volume through large retailers. In the context of future ambitions for cultured meat, CellulaREvolution’s peptide coating and continuous bioreactors could represent vital pieces of the puzzle if the world is to move toward scaled and affordable production.

CellulaREvolution is a spin-out from Newcastle University, with which two of its three co-founders, Martina Miotto and Che Connon, are closely linked; the co-founders have been developing the company’s intellectual property since 2017. The company is headquartered in Newcastle, and while the North East of England will remain a hub for its R&D and other operations, it envisages international offices (both R&D and commercial) in the longer term.

“Newcastle is a good city to do business in and to live in, with a high quality of life,” says Co-founder and CEO Leo Groenewegen, who was born and educated in the Netherlands, trained as a health economist and worked as a CFO in Sweden before coming to the UK. “Encouraged by the university, biotech culture is growing quickly. For instance we have the Biosphere here.” The Biosphere, where CellulaREvolution is a tenant, is owned and operated by Newcastle City Council, and is a 7000m2 laboratory and office building dedicated to life science innovation, research and development. “There is a pool of skilled talent and employees in Newcastle – in technical creativity, in biopharma and engineering – providing a strong flow of candidates for collaboration and recruitment. There’s nothing you can’t do here because you’re not in London, Cambridge or Oxford. It’s also an affordable city, and the airport gets you places easily – it’s much more manageable than Heathrow!”

He describes CellulaREvolution as a “Picks and shovels company in a goldrush, selling tools for others to use.” The first cultured meat burger was produced in 2013 and Groenewegen points out it probably cost about $300k. CellulaREvolution intends to exploit its intellectual property, which includes the bioreactor it successfully prototyped in late 2020 (amidst the pandemic), in order to transform its basic science into a scalable production facility and to make the entire process of producing cultured meat faster, safer, cleaner and more sustainable. “It’s about transitioning small lab-scale work to something that can enable production at mass quantity, of the right quality, at the right yield and at the right price. We will have an indirect impact on sustainability: other companies wouldn’t be able to achieve sustainability without us.”

Groenewegen explains that globally there are probably 60 companies active in cultured meat, with hubs in California, Israel, the Netherlands and Singapore. He talks of establishing a ‘cultured meat powerhouse’ in the North East with 3D Bio-Tissues, another spinout from Newcastle University, which is using animal-free media to produce bio-equivalent tissues for clinical and cellular agriculture.  While CellulaREvolution specified and designed its bioreactor in-house, some of the construction of the prototype was contracted to a third party. “Collaboration on manufacture is an alternative to building our own factory for £30m.” If Groenewegen describes CellulaREvolution as currently “a lean company”, he adds that, “We aim to put more meat on the bones.”

He is planning to accelerate the company’s growth process with Series A funding of between £7.5 and £12m in mid-2022 and potentially a SAFE note in 2021; it will be used to scale up the team and capabilities for manufacturing.

In 2019, when it was incorporated, CellulaREvolution raised pre-seed funding through a mixture of non-dilutive grants and direct investments. In the same year it received some £350k in grants (mainly from Innovate UK), angel funding, and an initial £140k from Newcastle-based VC Northstar Ventures. In January 2021 the company completed a £1.2m seed round.

“The money was raised entirely during the pandemic, so that meant dozens of online pitches,” explains Groenewegen. “Under normal circumstances it would have been a face-to-face roadshow. It’s a little harder to build a rapport online, but it’s more efficient and cheaper – I could easily do five or more pitches a day. Money was less readily available because of COVID, and visits to our office and lab were not possible, which might have lost us investors, but we also gained new investors, particularly as core enabling technologies are in demand and cultured meat is growing in importance for investors. We now have a relationship with a set of strategic investors, led by Northstar Ventures and CPT Capital.” CPT Capital, based in London, is one of the world’s largest investors in cultured meat and plant-based protein. Also in the group are Stephan Schmidt, Orange Light Ventures, the North East Innovation Fund supported by the European Regional Development Fund, and the newly launched Northern Accelerator Seed Investment Fund (NASIF).

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