BioBetter, Ltd. has opened its first food-grade pilot facility to accelerate the production of 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.

Cultivated meat production processes are relatively expensive, making it challenging to scale up and reach price parity with animal-based counterparts. The start-up already has achieved five milestones in the past year:

  1. Production scale-up/building pilot plan
  2. Commercial-scale cultivation of insulin- and FGF-expressing tobacco plants
  3. Reaching GF expression levels that enable a reduction of production costs
  4. Regulatory progress and advances with the Israel Ministry of Health
  5. Collaboration with cultivated meat companies

BioBetter discovered a purpose for the traditionally shunned tobacco plants, transforming them into bioreactors for producing GFs. These GFs reportedly play a key role in the proliferation and differentiation of cultured meat cells, allowing for the formation of authentic and well-structured muscle tissue.

Designed for both environmental safety and efficiency, these bioreactors grow in a large-scale, net-house cultivation system. The plant’s engineering reportedly prevents the escape of transgenic material. They are induced to express growth factors 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.

The newly established pilot plant can process 100kg of tobacco plant-derived GFs daily. Constructed to meet quality standards, the facility meets regulatory requirements for food-grade growth factors, including FGF2 and insulin production. It is securing approval from the Ministry of Health for food manufacturing licensing. The company adheres to ISO2200 and HACCP standards.

BioBetter also made breakthroughs in the cultivation of bovine insulin-expressing plants. Several thousand square meters of FGF2-expressing tobacco plants are thriving in northern Israel. The company states that it is the first-time growth factor sources have been successfully planted in large net houses in four locations, with a fruitful harvest in its first season. Plans are underway to cultivate more FGF2 and insulin-expressing plants, with commercial roll-out projected for 2024.

In 2022, BioBetter secured USD10 million in an A-round investment led by Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP). The company is also a member of the Israeli Cultivated Meat Consortium, which unites academic institutions, large companies, and start-ups to advance the field of cultivated meat collaboratively.