CFIN, Ontario Genomics reveal winners of cumulative $900,000 for food innovation research

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Winners aim to replicate the taste, feel, and smell of meat without any meat.

The Canadian Food Innovation Network (CFIN) and Ontario Genomics have revealed the recipients of more than $900,000 in funding through their AcCELLerate-ON competition.

AcCELLerate-ON is a cellular agriculture competition that supports the research and development of innovative viable food production methods meant to drive economic growth in Ontario.

Applications underwent an evaluation process conducted by an external panel of eight judges with expertise in cellular agriculture, the food and beverage industry, technology, science, market andcommercial viability, and social sciences.

A spokesperson for Ontario Genomics told BetaKit that CFIN is contributing $350,000 and Ontario Genomics is providing $175,000 to the overall prize pot.

The four winning research projects are: Ardra Inc., Cell Ag Tech, Evolved, and the University of Toronto (UofT). CFIN and Ontario Genomics said they were chosen for their potential to drive food innovation, address industry opportunities, solve challenges, and benefit the cellular agriculture ecosystem, as well as the food and beverage industry in the province.

Ardra Inc., a biotechnology company located in Toronto, is receiving over $149,000 as it develops an ingredient called heme, which is found in animal blood. Heme by itself provides a core element of the taste of meat.

Ardra was able to produce animal-free heme by precision fermentation and claims to have active requests for larger sample amounts from several major flavour companies. With funding from AcCELLerate-ON, Ardra plans to reach pilot-scale for heme production, validation of their key ingredients by these potential customers, and to establish a clear path to market.

Winning $150,000, Toronto-based Cell Ag Tech is working with biotech company Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM) to grow snapper cells in 2D and 3D, laying the foundation for commercial-scale production and commercialization. As most of the seafood production in Canada occurs in the coastal regions, cell-cultured seafood, such as what can be made out of snapper cells, can provide Ontario with the opportunity to participate in the seafood economy according to Ontario Genomics.

Kitchener-based Evolved (formerly Caro Meats) is getting $75,000, and intends to develop whole cuts of scaffold-free cultivated meat that are structurally and biochemically identical to conventional meat products. Using cell sheet engineering techniques and transitioning its products from muscle to meat, the company wants to create cultivated meat products, from any livestock species, that align with consumer preferences and consumption habits. Evolved said that the proteomic dataset for conventional pork will be made open-source for access in the cellular agriculture ecosystem.

UofT’s research project is being led by biomedical engineering professor Michael Garton and in collaboration with lab-grown meat manufacturer Myo Palate. Garton, along with his research team, proposes to design synthetic gene circuits that can be integrated with the initial stem cells and direct muscle transformation and maturation processes, omitting the need for external agents. UofT received $150,000 from the competition.

The university’s project is expected to lay the groundwork for improving the efficiency of cultured meat production, which in turn can create a positive impact on the environment and address animal rights issues.

All of these projects are due to be completed within 12 to 18 months.

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According to Ontario Genomics, the competition was created in response to its 2021 report on cellular agriculture that showed Canada’s $12.5 billion opportunity. The report suggests a $7.5 billion a year industry and up to 86,000 jobs created by 2030. Longer term, the industry has the potential to reach $12.5 billion a year with the creation of up to 142,000 jobs, the report states.

Ontario Genomics is a not-for-profit organization that aims to advance genomics projects by supporting the development of proposals, helping researchers access diverse funding sources, and finding the right industry partner to take this research out of the lab.

Since its inception in 2000, the organization claims to have raised more than $1.27 billion for genomics applied research in Ontario and directly supported more than 9,100 trainees and jobs. It supports over 110 active projects, 500 partnerships, and claims to have secured $1.34 billion in follow-on investments for projects.

UPDATE (06/05/2022): A previous version of this article stated that Cell Ag Tech is working with American therapeutics technology provider Cytiva. The story has been updated to accurately reflect that Cell Ag Tech is partnering with the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine (CCRM), a biotech company, and the connection with Cytiva is only via CCRM.

Featured image from Louis Reed via Unsplash.

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz is a journalism student at Ryerson University and a staff writer for BetaKit. Follow her on Twitter @charlizealcaraz

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