GFI Report Highlights Challenges of Sourcing Cell Lines for Cultivated Meat

The latest GFI cultivated meat report offers insights into cell line availability, desired qualities, sourcing issues, regulatory hurdles, and religious certifications — all challenges cultivated meat manufacturers face since there are very few commercial cell lines available.

GFI experts conducted an industry-wide survey to address the lack of publicly available data on cell lines in the cultivated meat industry. They analyzed answers from 44 companies, providing “a first-of-its-kind portrait” of the progress, preferences, and hurdles of the industry as it seeks to scale up.

“A deep dive into the companies’ responses also illuminates a regrettable reality: There is almost certainly significant duplication of effort with similar species, cell types, and product characteristics being pursued by many companies, and cell line development largely being conducted through resource-intensive in-house efforts,” says the GFI.

Based on the survey, the GFI report shares key findings on how companies source cell lines for cultivated meat R&D:  

a picture of cells under a microscope
Cells under a microscope © Matrix F.T.

Desired cells, types, and accessibility

According to the survey, many companies look for cell lines from cows, pigs, sheep, lamb, and aquatic species such as salmon and tuna.

Since there is little offer of other cell types, the most used cells by companies are myoblasts, fibroblasts, and mesenchymal stem cells. And the most difficult to source are embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells of terrestrial species, which half of the companies said they are willing to purchase if available — an opportunity for cell-line providers.

Cell sourcing and cell line characteristics

The survey showed that most companies rely on slaughtered animals to source their cells, demonstrating a demand for alternative sources such as live animals or proximity to cell isolation facilities. Farmers, ranchers, and seafood producers could use this opportunity to create novel revenue.

In general, companies seem reluctant to use genetically engineered or modified cell lines; however, they are open to using spontaneously immortalized cells that may not be considered genetically modified based on certain regulations.

© CellX

Regulatory hurdles, religious certifications

The survey found that companies needed clarification on the process for regulatory approval for cell lines in dynamic markets like the US and Singapore. The report highlights the importance of making regulatory guidelines more understandable and accessible to organizations. It suggests that regulators bridge knowledge gaps for companies to navigate better on the approval process. 

The study also shows that companies prefer to obtain halal or kosher certification for their cell lines. Yet, religious certifications for cultivated meat production still need to be clarified, posing a barrier to entry in many high-priority markets, says the GFI.

The GFI suggests that religious bodies and third-party certification agencies must collaborate with regulators and industry stakeholders to understand how to meet their standards best for cultivated meat and seafood cell line isolation and development.

SuperMeat cultivated chicken
© SuperMeat

Potential to revolutionize food production

According to the GFI, the cultivated meat industry has the potential to revolutionize food production in terms of economics and the environment. Companies are making headway into this industry, but there are still hurdles to overcome before it becomes commercially viable.

Cell lines, the building blocks of cultivated meat, must become widely available for the industry to move forward. Recognizing a market opportunity, last week, UK-based company Extracellular launched a new license-free cell bank to support cultivated meat R&D.

“Moving forward, we need to identify actionable opportunities to increase the accessibility of cell lines, optimize their characteristics, and enhance their suitability to the cultivated meat production process, to create superior quality products at a large scale and lower cost. Understanding these limitations is a huge part of getting closer to the goal of a better and more sustainable meat production system,” says the GFI.

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