Scalable Modular Bioreactor Design for Cultured Meat Production

New Harvest X IRNAS Bioreactor Project 

This Seed Grant project was so successful that New Harvest is now funding a continuation of the students' prototype at the IRNAS Institute for Development of Advanced Applied Systems in Slovenia. In the summer of 2020, IRNAS hardware experts will be collaborating with biomedical researchers at the University of Maribor to test the bioreactor's ability to house and grow cells.

Learn more!

New Harvest Seed Grantees: Han Zhang, Yi-Fan Chen, and Kyle Manke at the Faculty of Applied Science at the University of British Columbia, Canada

Project End Date: May 2018

Project Duration: One year

Institutes: University of British Columbia

Supervisors:  New Harvest Research Fellow Jess Krieger and New Harvest Research Director Kate Krueger

Impact: Bioreactors are one of the four building blocks of cultured meatthe controlled chamber which provides the right conditions for cells to multiply into muscle fibersbut there is no industry standard and researchers struggle to DIY them in their individual labs. This project aims to design a bioreactor that everyone in the field can use and adapt for their own needs.

Project Abstract: 

This project aims to design and build a scalable, modular bioreactor prototype for cultured meat production to be used in a lab setting. This novel bioreactor will be modular in that cells can be grown on trays with self-contained fluid circuits which can easily be switched out if goals change. The bioreactor is particularly scalable because all fluid circuits are driven by a single peristaltic pump head. Thus, the number of trays can be increased simply by adding more trays, without the need for additional pumps and complex tubing circuits.

The bioreactor case, almost ready to go!

For the purposes of this project, 8 cell culture trays will be fabricated. Each tray will hold up to 4 cell tissue chips, a clean fluid reservoir, and a spent fluid reservoir. In addition, the trays must be able to survive being autoclaved at 121 degrees celsius and 1 atm gauge pressure. The bioreactor cabinet assembly will also be fabricated. The cabinet must be airtight when sealed, and house the pump, electronics for controlling internal temperature and up to 8 culture trays.


These freshly cut trays will house the cell culture chips, serum reservoirs, and drains inside the bioreactor when complete

To maximize the chances of the tissues surviving and growing, the bioreactor environment must be carefully controlled. Key bioreactor environmental parameters are temperature, CO2 levels, humidity, and fluid flow rate. For this early prototype, only flow rate and temperature control will be implemented.

When complete, the bioreactor will be shipped to New Harvest Research Fellow Jess Krieger’s lab in Kent, Ohio, for subsequent in vitro tissue experiments. Until then, the Engineering Physics Project Lab at UBC will be the primary location for project work.

Project Relevance: The goals of this project are twofold:

1). to design and build a bioreactor that will accommodate modular tissue-on-a-chip devices to be implanted, serving an immediate research interest today, while 2). demonstrating a scalable property useful to the budding cultured meat industry. The team is collaborating with New Harvest Research Fellows working on bioreactor related projects. Like all New Harvest-funded research, results will be made available to the public.

As you can see here, the bioreactor prototype is still being built from scratch, and it has yet to be tested for cell culturing capabilities. We’re looking forward to sharing the progress of this project as it develops!


The UBC modular bioreactor seed grantee team members Han, Yifan, and Kyle

Stay tuned for updates on this and other New Harvest research projects!