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Triplebar and Umami Meats initiate technology collaboration to optimize cell lines for sustainable seafood

March 6, 2023

Biotechnology company Triplebar and cultivated seafood platform company Umami Meats are partnering to co-develop optimized cell lines suitable for large-scale production of cultivated seafood – starting with one of the most popular and critically endangered fish species.

The California-based Triplebar and Singapore-headquartered Umami Meats signed a letter of intent recently to collaborate on shared technical milestones, with the unified mission of producing commercially viable, scalable, and affordable cultivated seafood. Their first project will be Japanese eel.

Together, Triplebar and Umami teams will work to improve the fitness and performance of cell lines to enable lower-cost, more efficient production of cultivated foods. The shared goal is to reduce the cost of high-quality foods, reduce supply-chain risks in the global fishing and aquaculture industry, and relieve pressure on depleted fish stocks in the world’s oceans.

“The solution to the global seafood problem is to leverage science and technology to make high-quality food affordably and sustainably,” said Maria Cho, CEO of Triplebar. “Biotechnology can make our global food system more robust, and relieve pressure on the ecosystem, which is facing a catastrophic collapse in biodiversity.”

The first product to be commercialized under the new letter of intent is Japanese eel, or unagi, native to the waters off Japan, Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. It’s considered an essential part of Japanese cuisine, common in sushi, poke and grilled main courses.

But due to overfishing, the surge in ocean temperatures, and ocean acidification, unagi has become critically endangered in the wild. Aquaculture for carnivorous eels is resource-intensive and environmentally hazardous. It takes 2.5 tons of wild fish to generate 1 ton of marketable eels. Pathogen-susceptible eels escape from aquaculture systems, many of which use open tanks in modified wetlands – leading to wetland destruction, and crossbreeding between wild and sick domesticated stock.

Umami Meats will leverage Triplebar’s Hyper-Throughput screening system for solution discovery, testing millions of potential phenotypic solutions in the time it normally takes to search mere hundreds. The partners will work together to develop a licensing agreement that will accelerate cell line development and optimization without the need for genetic modification.

Triplebar uses its proprietary integration of hardware, software, biology and biochemistry as the microprocessor for biology, bringing the powerful algorithm of evolution to develop products and biological production systems used to produce them in the lab. Triplebar’s technology can be easily applied to food, pharmaceuticals and other verticals.

Triplebar announced a partnership in January with global ingredients giant FrieslandCampina to co-develop and scale up the production of ingredients essential to human nutrition. Together, Triplebar and FrieslandCampina will produce microbial cells via fermentation methodologies – which, at scale, can produce proteins with a much smaller land, water and energy footprint than traditional livestock.

Triplebar is a foundry business of The Production Board (TPB), a venture foundry established to solve the most fundamental problems that affect our planet. TPB is the primary investor in Triplebar and is reimagining and re-engineering global production systems across food, agriculture, biomanufacturing, human health and the broader life sciences. Founded by Dave Friedberg, TPB conducts deep scientific and technical research to identify emerging and meaningful discoveries and determine whether they have transformational commercial applications.

Umami Meats is developing the operating system for cultivated seafood, a standardized, modular production process that empowers seafood producers to locally manufacture a range of delicious, affordable, and healthy cultivated seafood products tailored to local consumer tastes. Umami Meats is enabling a sustainable alternative to wild-caught and farmed fish that is better for people, marine life, and the planet at large.

Umami Meats has established a novel production process built around cell types which can rapidly produce mature muscle and fat. The company is now working to optimize production architecture and process design to reduce costs, increase productivity, and establish a reliable, repeatable process that can scale at production sites around the world.

Through the unique combination of stem cell biology, machine learning, and digital twins, Umami Meats is pioneering the development of a standardized, modular, and automated production process that can produce cultivated seafood from a variety of fish species. Building partnerships that accelerate the process development cycle and improve product quality has been a core priority for the company over the past year.

“We are firm believers in technology as a tool to make seafood better, healthier, and more sustainable than conventional aquaculture and wild catch, especially for endangered species," said Mihir Pershad, CEO of Umami Meats. "So we are delighted when we find the opportunity to partner with other businesses that share our vision and that have technologies that can accelerate our progress toward achieving it. I’m certain that this collaboration between Umami Meats and Triplebar will accelerate the commercialization of cultivated seafood and the transition to a more robust and sustainable food system for everyone.”

With the goal of restoring ocean ecosystems and preserving biodiversity, Umami Meats’ product roadmap prioritizes the world’s most popular seafoods from species that are IUCN Red Listed, unsuited to large-scale aquaculture, and facing growing demand. Last year, the company debuted the world’s first cultivated fish ball laksa, fish cakes, and fish tacos at a series of private tasting events in Singapore to showcase cultivated seafood’s potential to preserve heritage dishes and culinary traditions while alleviating pressure on our oceans.

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with us, please email info@futureofproteinproduction.com

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