BioBetter, Ltd. announced it opened its first food-grade pilot facility to accelerate the production of key growth factors for the cultivated meat industry. The company has pioneered a protein manufacturing platform for producing growth factors (GFs) using tobacco plants as self-sustained, animal-free bioreactors.

Solving Bottleneck Challenges
According to BioBetter, it helps cultivated meat companies offer accessible products to consumers and provides cellular agriculture with its molecular farming-based production platform. Cultivated meat production processes are relatively expensive, making it challenging to scale up and reach price parity with animal-based counterparts.

"Cultivated meat is still very expensive in comparison to conventional meat and the key is to reduce the growth medium costs to a minimum," explains Amit Yaari, Ph.D., CEO of BioBetter. "Our target is to reduce the production cost of growth factors, including insulin, a key part of the growth medium, to $1 per gram which is a 100-fold less than the going rate today."

Plant Bioreactor Technology
BioBetter discovered a purpose for tobacco plants, transforming them into bioreactors for producing GFs. These GFs play a role in the proliferation and differentiation of cultured meat cells, allowing muscle tissue formation. 

Designed for environmental safety and efficiency, these bioreactors grow in a large-scale, net-house cultivation system. The plants are engineered to prevent the escape of any transgenic material. They induce to express growth factors only when chemically triggered, and the company uses non-food, non-feed tobacco plants to eliminate the risk of inadvertent consumption or cross-contamination of food crops.

Sustainability at the Core
The newly established pilot plant can process 100–kg of tobacco plant-derived GFs daily. Constructed in adherence to standards, the facility meets regulatory requirements for food-grade growth factors, including FGF2 and insulin production. It is currently progressing through stages of securing approval from the Ministry of Health for food manufacturing licensing. The company is committed to scalability, adhering to ISO2200 and HACCP standards.

Plans are underway to cultivate more FGF2 and insulin-expressing plants, with commercial roll-out projected for 2024.