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Why isn’t the field of cellular agriculture well-funded?

Answer

Considering how impactful this work is, it is indeed surprising that there remains a lack of funding dedicated to research in this area. There are two things that contribute to this.

The first is that cellular agriculture lies at the intersection of medical research and food science.

Expertise in tissue engineering comes from medicine. Medical researchers will seek tissue engineering grants for medical applications - growing skin for burn victims, or growing organs for patients requiring transplants. But there isn’t a portion of this grant that can be used for exploring food applications of their work. Grants can be fairly strict, and researchers risk losing their funding if they do not adhere to grant requirements.

Cellular agriculture at the intersection of medical research and food science.

Then you might think, food science must be where this work takes place. The problem is that the average food science lab is not set up for mammalian cell culture. Today, tissue engineering expertise is not in food science, and therefore food science labs just aren’t outfitted for this kind of work.

The second thing to consider is a catch-22 that exists for all novel research.

Most research is built incrementally on prior research. So your most recent experiment will inform your next experiment. And you will use the data from your previous experiment to seek funding for your next one.

But if you want to try something totally different, you’re in a difficult place. You need data to apply for grant money, but you need money to get that initial data.

Many of the researchers who get in touch with us are tissue engineers excited about cellular agriculture but limited to doing small side experiments in their lab because they are unable to account for significant funds being directed to the work. These are the kinds of researchers that we fund.

New Harvest is addressing this funding gap by providing researchers with catalytic grants that allow them to gather initial data, reach a first milestone, or create a prototype that will allow them to more easily find funding from existing, established funders like the government or large research foundations.

To date, New Harvest has provided nearly $400,000 in grants for open, academic cellular agriculture research.