Multus Biotechnology, a UK-based startup, has announced the close of a $9.5 million Series A investment round to build a growth media production facility.
The funding includes an equity-free grant of $2.5 million from Innovate UK through the EIC Accelerator. The round was led by Mandi Ventures, with key investors including SOSV, Big Idea Ventures, SynBioVen, and Asahi Kasei Corp. With new funding in hand, Multus plans to build a growth media production plant in the UK that it hopes will accelerate the cultivated meat industry towards price parity with affordable food-safe growth media at commercial scale. The London-based startup will also accelerate product development in advanced growth media formulations and food-grade raw materials. This week’s funding follows a $2.2 million raise in 2021 and the launch of the company’s first product, Proliferum® M, an all-in-one solution to eliminate the use of foetal bovine serum in cell culture.
Multus is focused on creating animal-free growth media for the cultivated meat industry. They are investing heavily in developing nutrient-rich plant-derived ingredients that are food-safe, affordable, and scalable using well-established food-manufacturing practices. These ingredients will allow them to design high-performance growth media for a variety of cultivated meat-relevant cell types without the use of animal serum and with a clear path to scaling up production. To optimize their growth media efficiently, they are using a combination of machine learning and high-throughput formulation screening through their MediOp platform, which allows them to capture the complexity of a large ingredient library, new cell types, and performance objectives.
What was the origin of Multus and what problem did they choose to address?
The founding team of Multus Biotechnology saw the challenge of creating affordable and food-safe growth media for the cellular agriculture industry as an engineering problem. They met at Imperial College London, where they combined their backgrounds in data science, synthetic biology, and bioengineering to develop enabling technology that could accelerate the industry’s time to market and time to price parity and scale. They take an interdisciplinary approach to growth media, considering every aspect from amino acids and growth factors to formulation optimization and manufacturing.
In 2020, they realized that similar proteins were already being produced at a much larger scale and lower cost than they would ever need in the cellular agriculture industry by companies in the industrial enzyme industry. The challenge with growth factors was that they have a short half-life due to their function as cell-to-cell signaling molecules in dynamic systems. To overcome this, they decided to use readily scalable and affordable technology in precision fermentation and focus their innovation in computational protein design to create biodesigned growth factors with enhanced potency and prolonged activity.
How Multus is using algorithmic biology and machine learning to solve the problem of growth media
The team at Multus recognizes that the scientific understanding of cell metabolism in the new cell types used in cultivated meat is not yet sufficient to prompt rational design of growth media, especially when using complex or food-grade raw materials. To address this, they have turned growth media optimization into a data science problem by capturing large amounts of data on cell behavior and using computational modeling and machine learning to analyze the data and efficiently find the best combinations of ingredients to maximize performance.
Over time, they are accumulating more and more data with different ingredients and different cell types to continue improving the efficiency of their platform and thus the control they have over cell growth. The MediOp platform allows them to efficiently customize growth media to meet multiple objectives in a short time-period, which will be especially important when large-scale production of cultivated meat puts constraints on access to raw materials and rapid re-formulation becomes an important business need Multus will be able to meet.
Plans for Utilizing Post-Funding
Multus Biotechnology is investing in a first-of-its-kind production facility to make food-safe growth media at commercial scale with non-dilutive funding from Innovate UK through the EIC Accelerator. They recently announced that they achieved ISO22000 certification in their production lab, a major step forward in becoming the all-in-one solution and preferred supplier of growth media to the cellular agriculture industry. The facility, which is being built in the UK, will be able to support several companies scaling from bench to pilot, and pilot to commercial manufacturing. The facility will allow them to bring their novel ingredient discovery and intelligent formulation design to the market.