Los Angeles-based Omeat has launched what is claimed to be the world’s first commercially available alternative to fetal bovine serum (FBS). Called Plenty, the serum can be purchased by other companies, making Omeat one of the very few cultivated meat startups to be generating revenue.
FBS is an ingredient found in fetuses extracted from slaughtered pregnant cows. It is used as a growth medium, providing nutrients that allow cultivated meat cells to develop. But aside from being costly, FBS comes with ethical issues; most significantly, the cultivated meat produced using the serum cannot be said to be truly slaughter-free. The quality of FBS can also be inconsistent.
Plenty provides an alternative derived from living adult cows, in a process that does not harm the animal. The serum is made by connecting cows to a machine that collects a sample of blood, removes the plasma, and returns the remaining components to the animal. Plasma is able to regenerate quickly, so there are said to be no adverse effects on the cow.
While adult bovine serum is ordinarily less effective than FBS, Omeat told AgFunder that this changes when the serum is enriched for plasma, making Plenty even more potent than FBS. The cost is also far lower — so much so that Omeat plans to launch products made with 100% cultivated meat, whereas its competitors may have to start with hybrid cultivated/plant-based products.
Other companies have also found alternatives to FBS; for example, GOOD Meat and CellMEAT have both developed serum-free growth media. However, Plenty is the first FBS alternative to be available commercially, and Omeat founder Dr. Ali Khademhosseini claims the other products cannot yet completely replace FBS.
“Synthetic serum substitutes, defined media, and serum-free media have been developed as potential alternatives, but they still have limitations that need to be addressed before they can completely replace FBS,” he said.plant-based good meat meat alternative startups