Dr. Steve Kattman is a leading expert in the development and manufacture of cell-based products derived from pluripotent stem cells (i.e., cells that could develop into various different types of mature cells). Dr. Kattman has been working on cardiac cell therapy for humans, but he’s got some amazing cross-disciplinary insight into the work that clean meat researchers are doing to apply this same technology to fix the food system.
Naturally, we had to have him as a speaker at our Good Food Conference. (Follow along on our *free* conference live stream!) And in the meantime, here are a few golden nuggets of knowledge he shared with us ahead of the conference. Ready to learn?
What connection do you see between your work in stem cell research for heart disease treatments and the progress clean meat companies are making towards viable alternatives to conventional animal agriculture?
We have done extensive work in developing stem cell-derived tissues as cell products for the life science industry and for therapeutic development. In order to achieve this, we apply principles of developmental biology, cell biology, and molecular biology into product development and manufacturing.
By doing so, we have been able to manufacture relevant differentiated cell types as cell products, with high consistency, scale, and functionality. A few of the cell types developed include cardiomyocytes and skeletal muscle. Similar biological and manufacturing principles are needed to achieve the promise of clean meat. Additionally, to make clean meat a reality, cost-of-goods and species specificity will need to be addressed. These challenges are similar to cell product development.
What first put clean meat on your radar?
A few companies involved in the field initially reached out to me, piquing my interest.
From your vantage point, how does the biotech industry currently view the burgeoning clean meat sector?
I have discussed clean meat with a number of colleagues in the biotech industry and academia alike. At this early stage, there isn't much knowledge of the industry. However, GFI is very active in getting the message out.
As clean meat producers start to scale, are there lessons they could learn from the cell therapy industry—common pitfalls to avoid?
A pitfall to avoid that is reflected in the cell therapy industry is to be sure you are developing the relevant cell and tissue type before scaling. The composition of skeletal muscle is complex and is very distinct from the progenitor cell population. A proliferative fibroblast or MSC [mesenchymal stem cell] is very different from skeletal muscle in both phenotype and function, and presumably taste and texture. The species- and tissue-specific differentiation and growth methodologies need to be addressed before scaling begins.
If you’re a scientist or researcher who was nodding along to “progenitor cell population” and “proliferative fibroblast,” we’re glad you’re here! We hope you’ll start thinking about how your expertise might intersect with the needs of the food system and consider tuning in for our SciTech team’s office hours!
For background on GFI’s work, check out our team’s reviews of clean meat, plant-based meat, and cellular agriculture.