We are empowering good food research.

The 2019 Competitive Research Grant Program is now reviewing applications. Awardees will be announced in 2020.

We are empowering good food research.

The 2019 Competitive Research Grant Program is now reviewing applications. Awardees will be announced in 2020.

From the Executive Director

Bruce Friedrich

We need exponentially more research, more training opportunities, more scientists and entrepreneurs, and more funding to accelerate the plant-based and cultivated meat industries.

Given the dearth of research funding for plant-based and cultivated meat, The Good Food Institute’s research program fills one part of an enormous whitespace. By supporting high-quality research that will produce open-access data designed to benefit the plant-based and cultivated meat industries, we are helping build the scientific foundation of a healthy, sustainable, and just food system.

Thanks to gifts from two visionary donors, GFI will grant at least $3.15 million to promising plant-based and cultivated meat research projects through our 2019 RFP.

— Bruce Friedrich, Co-founder & Executive Director


Help us improve the organoleptic qualities, cost, and scale-up of alternative proteins.

Research goals
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Thank you to everyone who submitted a Phase 1 application.

We received 135 Phase 1 applications from 25 countries!

Did you know…

GFI and its science and technology team specifically work to catalyze research and development to improve the organoleptic properties, price point, and production capacity of plant-based and cultivated meat products.

The 2019 RFP, the program’s second iteration, is the next strategic step for advancing the science of alternative proteins to supply the global demand for meat.

Sourcing and Scaling the Next Generation of Plant Proteins

Of all calories consumed by humans from agricultural land, 70 percent come from only 15 crops.


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Creating better plant-based foods requires exploration of novel sources of raw materials. “Better” in this context means that the sensory experience is optimized for omnivores, not vegetarians. There is an urgent need to address bottlenecks to scaling and consider how the projected growth of the plant-based food industry impacts the sourcing and scaling of proteins and other ingredients, especially in regions with growing prosperity and thus rapidly increasing animal protein demand.

Differentiating Muscle and Fat Cells in Animal Cell Culture

The first cultivated meat prototype debuted in 2013, and cultivated meat products have yet to become commercially available.

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The cell-based meat industry would benefit from the development of robust, scalable processes for muscle and fat cell differentiation in an animal cell culture production environment. Further innovation in cell line optimization, chemically defined animal-free media, scaffolding systems, bioreactor design, and large-scale co-culture processes will remove significant technical barriers facing the cultivated meat industry.

Optimizing Non-animal Cell Culture for Protein Biomass

Protein for human consumption can now be produced from technologies using microbes that convert carbon dioxide into food, putting the 36 billion tons of CO2 emitted around the globe each year to good use.

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Research on microorganisms that can withstand extreme environments or survive on environmental waste streams (like carbon dioxide emissions) helps companies like Sustainable Bioproducts and Kiverdi produce food with minimal inputs and impact on the environment. Algae, fungi, or bacteria may provide the protein biomass for alternative meat products. For these ingredients to benefit the plant-based and cultivated meat industries, they must be characterized, optimized, and produced through low-cost, large-scale manufacturing processes.

Engineering Recombinant Proteins as Inputs for Animal-Free Food

Recombinant protein engineering and optimization can reduce stem cell medium costs by up to 97 percent.


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The plant-based and cultivated meat industries may benefit from animal proteins created through recombinant technology. Much opportunity exists for the creation of high-value ingredients, enzymes, and biomaterials, which may serve as finished food ingredients or as processing aids to improve ingredient functionality, using recombinant production methods.

Be inspired by our 2018-2019 grantees

GFI’s inaugural competitive grant program awarded almost $3 million in research funding to 14 scientists from around the world.

These research initiatives span the breadth of the supply chain: from crop breeding to product formulation for plant-based meat and from cell line development to bioprocess scale-up for cultivated meat. You can read our synopses of all 14 plant-based and cultivated meat projects. Or scroll down to learn more about individual projects.

Cultivated Meat Research Projects

Dr. Ivana Gadjanski, Research Fellow, BioSense Institute, University of Novi Sad, Serbia


Monitoring of cell culture parameters using sensors for biomass and nutrients/metabolites in media: lab-on-a-chip (LOC) approach

Technology areas addressed: cell culture, bioreactor development

Project Aims
  • Prototypes sensors for in-situ measurements of biomass, nutrient, and metabolite quantities.
  • Implements lab-on-a-chip strategy combining sensors and microfluidic devices.
  • Uses a scale-down approach to solve process problems before scale translation.
Potential Impact
  • Produces sensors for detecting biomass, nutrient, and metabolite concentrations.
  • Reduces cost through medium recycling.
  • Enables maximization of cell proliferation per unit medium volume.
Dr. Gadjanski’s Expertise
  • Creator of Pubsonic, an interactive graphical depiction of open-access biomedical data.
  • Founder of the Fab Initiative, a nonprofit promoting digital fabrication in STEAM fields in Southeast Europe.
  • Interdisciplinary scientist with interests in bioengineering, synthetic biology, biosensors, and microfluidics.


Dr. Mariana Petronela Hanga, Lecturer of Biological Engineering, Aston University, UK


Advancing the production of clean beef towards commercialisation

Technology areas addressed: bioprocess, scale-up

Project Aims
  • Produces high-density stem cell cultures in suspension using small bioreactors.
  • Develops parallel one-step bioprocesses for culturing both adipocyte and myocyte lineages.
  • Employs hydrogels for cell encapsulation to co-culture the differentiated cells, producing complex microtissues in small bioreactors.
Potential Impact
  • Identifies topics to be addressed in scale-up of bioreactors through the performance of a cost analysis.
  • Paves the way to pilot bioreactor process scale-up that produces complex cultured meat products.
Dr. Hanga’s Expertise
  • Researches stem cell bioprocessing, human mesenchymal and induced pluripotent stem cells, bioreactor scale-up, and clean meat.
  • Manufactures stem cells for undamaging and nonenzymatic collection after culturing.
  • Designs microcarriers for nonenzymatic cell harvesting through either temperature control or microcarrier disassembly.


Prof. Marcelle Machluf, Dean, Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, Technion—Israel Institute of Technology, Israel


Designing a clean meat platform based on scalable cellular building blocks and matching processing methodologies

Technology areas addressed: scaffolding, bioprocess

Project Aims
  • Characterizes two biomaterials for two cellular building block applications.
  • Develops oleogel microparticles for incorporation into clean meat to improve texture attributes.
  • Combines cellular building blocks and oleogel microparticles to produce thick-cut cultivated meat on fibrous scaffolds.
Potential Impact
  • Creates a scalable process for the creation of complex, thick-cut clean meat.
  • Develops a platform for synthesis of a wide variety of meat forms from cellular building blocks.
Dr. Machluf’s Expertise
  • Combines material engineering and life sciences to develop disease treatments and advance regenerative medicine.
  • Applies expertise to gene therapy, drug delivery systems, cell bioencapsulation, and regenerative medicine.
  • Leverages natural mechanisms to find safe technological solutions in combating diseases.

Dr. Amy Rowat, Associate Professor, University of California, Los Angeles, USA


Plant-based scaffolds for marbled clean beef

Technology areas addressed: scaffolding, cell culture

Project Aims
  • Optimizes myotube growth on nanofibers by tuning diameter and stiffness.
  • Uses plant-based microporous scaffolding that favors adipocyte growth.
  • Integrates the scaffolds for co-culturing myotubes and adipocytes to grow marbled cultivated meat.
Potential Impact
  • Enables the growth and differentiation of multiple cell types simultaneously.
  • Improves the texture and sensory appeal of cultivated meat.
Dr. Rowat’s Expertise
  • Combines physics and engineering approaches with biology.
  • Uses physical properties of cells to understand physiology and disease.
  • Applies background to synthesis of heterogeneous scaffolding for texturing.

Dr. Peter Stogios, Senior Research Associate, University of Toronto, Canada


Addressing a major cost driver in the commercialization of clean meat—discovery and engineering of synthetic growth factors

Technology areas addressed: media optimization, scale-up

Project Aims
  • Identifies growth factors needed for cultivated meat production that can be inexpensively purified.
  • Characterizes growth factors to identify those with improved properties.
  • Engineers synthetic growth factors to further improve performance.
Potential Impact
  • Designs growth factors that are more stable and less expensive than existing growth factors.
  • Enables large-scale cultivated meat production at significantly lower cost.
Dr. Stogios’s Expertise
  • Is a trained structural biologist and biochemist.
  • Manages a protein structure-function and engineering lab that studies major issues in biology and public health.
  • Uses bioinformatics, structural biology, and protein engineering to discover and improve growth factors for use in cultivated meat production.


Dr. Gareth Sullivan, Group Leader, Norwegian Stem Cell Centre, University of Oslo, Norway


Clean meat cell line repository: The Frozen Farmyard

Technology areas addressed: cell line development, cell culture

Project Aims
  • Creates the Frozen Farmyard—a cell-line repository for agriculturally relevant animals.
  • Generates standard cellular materials for use by clean meat researchers.
  • Develops a kit that enables veterinarians, farmers, and others to send biopsies to labs.
Potential Impact
  • Increases accessibility of the clean meat space for interested new groups.
  • Reduces duplication of effort in the synthesis of viable cell lines.
  • Decreases variability from lab to lab and experiment to experiment.
Dr. Sullivan’s Expertise
  • Investigates factors that dictate the cellular fate of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC).
  • Has developed liver models using human pluripotent stem cells for a patient-specific approach to metabolic disease.
  • Provides tools for investigating toxicology and reducing drug failure rates.


Plant-Based Meat Research Projects

Dr. Ofir Benjamin, Lecturer and Researcher, Tel Hai College, Israel


Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) as a raw material for plant-based meat products

Technology areas addressed: crop optimization, ingredient processing, product formulation

Project Aims
  • Characterizes five high-yield quinoa varieties for protein, fat, and fiber composition.
  • Develops methods for preparation of quinoa protein concentrate and isolate.
  • Prototypes quinoa-based partial or full meat replacement products.
Potential Impact
  • Develops quinoa as a novel plant-based complete protein source, including processing into flour, protein concentrate, and protein isolate.
  • Optimizes quinoa protein yield through growing conditions and strain selection.
  • Produces a quinoa-based meat with organoleptic properties matching those of conventional meat.
Dr. Benjamin’s Expertise
  • Focuses research on structure and sensory characteristics for a wide variety of food products.
  • Uses novel electronic tongue and nose with traditional techniques to characterize sensory aspects of food.
  • Leads the charge toward building an institutional food-tech hub in Israel that bridges the gap between industry and academy.


Dr. Filiz Koksel, Assistant Professor, University of Manitoba, Canada


In-line structural, textural and nutritional quality monitoring and manipulation during processing of plant-based meats

Technology areas addressed: processing conditions, manufacturing technologies

Project Aims
  • Applies noninvasive in-line ultrasound to extrusion of protein-dense plant foods.
  • Maps the process-structure-property relationships of plant-based meat extrusion.
  • Determines the impact of protein concentration and source on nutritional quality of plant-based meat.
Potential Impact
  • Reduces waste through rapid, real-time quality control in extrusion process.
  • Optimizes textural and nutritional properties to accelerate adoption.
  • Develops the application of ultrasound to various plant-source inputs.
Dr. Koksel’s Expertise
  • Investigates the parameters that control food quality, safety, and nutrition.
  • Uses various wave techniques to determine structure-property relationships.
  • Connects food components to their resultant mechanical and functional properties.


Dr. Jian Li, Associate Professor, Beijing Technology and Business University, China


Identification and comparison of beany off-flavor in pea bean proteins

Technology areas addressed: processing conditions, ingredient characterization

Project Aims
  • Identifies the volatile compounds in pea proteins that lead to beany off-flavors.
  • Compares flavor profiles of various pea cultivars.
Potential Impact
  • Develops basic theory for removing beany off-flavors in pea proteins.
  • Improves taste of products made from pea proteins.
Dr. Li’s Expertise
  • Is a trained molecular sensory scientist.
  • Establishes novel extraction methods for volatile compounds.
  • Works to identify and isolate the volatile compounds in pea protein by Gas Chromatography-Olfactometry-Mass Spectrometry and aroma extract dilution analysis.


Dr. Mario Martinez, Assistant Professor, University of Guelph, Canada


Whole muscle tissue engineering through the innovative combination of microstructure engineering and high moisture extrusion

Technology areas addressed: manufacturing technologies, product development

Project Aims
  • Canvases plant proteins for use as either fiber-forming or bulking components in plant-based meat with considerations for complete amino acid profile.
  • Creates a muscle food analog through a two-phase technique to create a core-shell plant-based meat product.
  • Characterizes the nano-, micro-, and macroscale characteristics to enhance structure and texture of plant-based meat.
Potential Impact
  • Uses low-value byproducts in the creation of plant-based meat to reduce waste and cost.
  • Scales a method for creating next-generation texturized plant proteins for use in a variety of new consumer products.
  • Replicates organoleptic properties of conventional meat to accelerate consumer acceptance.
Dr. Martinez’s Expertise
  • Bridges fundamental and practical research by applying physicochemical, biological, and engineering approaches to plant-based ingredients.
  • Investigates relationship between structure/composition and the resultant nutritional and textural characteristics.
  • Uses whole-muscle tissue engineering and high-moisture extrusion to manufacture plant-based meat.

Dr. Ricardo San Martin, Research Director and Industry Fellow, Alt.Meat Program, University of California, Berkeley, USA


Incorporation of oil in plant-based meats

Technology areas addressed: ingredient development, product formulation

Project Aims
  • Prepares and characterizes oleogels for their use in plant-based meat.
  • Evaluates the cooking and sensory experience of plant-based meat with oleogels.
  • Generates open publications and research protocols that help emerging plant-based meat companies improve their products.
Potential Impact
  • Enables better incorporation of fats into plant-based products.
  • Creates plant-based meat with a sensory profile closer to that of animal meat.
Dr. San Martin’s Expertise
  • Professor of engineering with understanding of colloid chemistry, scaling up and costing of processing plants, and lab-to-market strategy.
  • Research director of the Alternative Meat Program at UC Berkeley, a program that allows CAL students to explore entrepreneurial opportunities in alternatives to animal meat.
  • Co-founder of Natural Response in Chile, which is dedicated to the production of plant extracts.

Dr. Dil Thavarajah, Associate Professor, Clemson University, USA


Breeding organic pulse and cereal crops towards protein biofortification—characterization of organic field pea and sorghum protein ingredients suitable for complete plant-based meat products

Technology areas addressed: crop optimization, ingredient processing

Project Aims
  • Establishes a breeding program that optimizes proteins for plant-based meat.
  • Identifies genetic markers for protein quality to accelerate future crop breeding.
  • Develops two-component protein isolate for complete-protein profile.
Potential Impact
  • Selects pea and sorghum cultivars with superior nutrition and functionality for use in plant-based meat.
  • Develops breeding protocols for creating crops with higher protein content.
Dr. Thavarajah’s Expertise
  • Applies biofortification to combat malnutrition and noncommunicable diseases.
  • Operates an organic breeding program for pulses and cereal crops.
  • Combines genome-wide analysis with nutritional sciences in nutrigenomics.

Dr. Raivo Vilu, R&D Director, and Ms. Mari-Liis Tammik, Research Scientist, TFTAK (Center of Food and Fermentation Technologies), Estonia


Fermentation of oat protein for application in extruded meat analogs

Technology areas addressed: processing conditions, manufacturing technologies

Project Aims
  • Ferments oats for use as a novel constituent in plant-based meat.
  • Identifies starter cultures that improve nutritional and organoleptic properties.
  • Develops fermented oat-based meat for comparison to both conventional meat and unfermented oat-based meat.
Potential Impact
  • Makes fermented oat protein, which has an excellent amino acid profile and low allergenicity, available for plant-based meat.
  • Enables fermentation of a wide variety of cereal grains to improve their nutritional profiles and sensory attributes.
Dr. Vilu’s Expertise
  • Holds the DuPont Medal for Excellence in Nutrition and Health Research.
  • Combines cutting-edge research in microbial physiology, fermentation, analytics, proteomics, and metabology.
  • Uses synthetic biology principles and modern analytical methods and systems to develop and implement novel food and other biotechnology products.



Ms. Beth Zotter, President, Trophic LLC, USA


Protein products from red seaweeds

Technology areas addressed: ingredient characterization, protein extraction methodology

Project Aims
  • Optimizes protein extraction processes in red seaweeds to meet quality specifications of food product formulators.
  • Assesses the suitability of different species of red seaweed for cost-effective protein extraction.
  • Characterizes taste, texture, and formulation properties of protein concentrates and isolates from red seaweeds.
Potential Impact
  • Develops new ingredients for plant-based meat from a source that already has a large global supply chain, high protein content, outstanding umami flavor profile, and red color.
  • Adds value to red seaweed protein, currently a sidestream of agar and carrageenan production.
Ms. Zotter’s Expertise
  • Serves as principal investigator of a project funded by the Department of Energy’s ARPA-e program to demonstrate high-yield, low-cost, and scalable systems for offshore seaweed production.
  • Leads a new venture in marine protein and fuel sources and works with the start-up companies at Cyclotron Road.
  • Offers expertise in environmental science; public policy; and the intersection of technology, economics, and policy.


Prospective Applicant Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below are some of the questions our 2018 applicants asked most often. We hope the answers clarify our viewpoints on these topics.

Q: Are projects leading to intellectual property (IP) or the creation of a license acceptable?

A: Yes. It is acceptable for projects to generate IP or lead to licensable outputs. However, based on GFI’s foundational mission to support open-access research, the purpose of this program is to fund research that will be available and accessible to benefit the alternative protein industry and global society as a whole. Proposals will be evaluated on the researcher’s plan for sharing project outputs with the larger scientific community. Acceptable sharing plans include providing royalty-free, nonexclusive licenses to GFI and others in the plant-based and cultivated meat community. If you have specific questions or concerns about sharing potential research outputs, we encourage you to attend one of our drop-in Q&A sessions to talk with our grant management team.

Q: How does GFI define direct and indirect costs?

A: Direct costs are project-specific expenses. These are costs for personnel who will be involved in the project, supplies and consumables needed for the specific research proposed, travel to a conference to present results, publication charges for submitting a manuscript, and other costs that can be specifically identified with the proposed research project.

Indirect costs are real costs incurred by organizations in support of research activities that cannot be directly applied to a specific grant. These costs result from shared services, such as utilities, administration, lab and computer equipment, and office and laboratory space rental.

Indirect costs must be no more than 10 percent of the requested direct costs for projects submitted by researchers at academic institutions, government labs, and nonprofit organizations. No indirect costs may be included in project budgets from researchers at for-profit companies.

Q: Does GFI give preference to researchers in the United States?

A: No. We funded research proposals from eight different countries through our 2018 RFP (Canada, China, Estonia, Israel, Norway, Serbia, the United Kingdom, and the United States). We will continue our focus on funding the best research from around the world.

Q: Where can I find additional resources about the plant-based and cultivated meat industries?

A: Please visit https://www.gfi.org/essentials to find GFI’s essential readings and research on plant-based and cultivated meat.  

The International GFI Team

Join us in supporting catalytic research to diversify the global food system

If you’d like to discuss partnership opportunities with GFI as we expand our research program activities, please let us know. We welcome the opportunity to talk with other nonprofits and NGOs, researchers, investors, and funding agencies who are keen to support or conduct alternative protein research.

All of GFI’s work is made possible thanks to generous donors. Philanthropic support is vital to our mission. To discuss how you can be part of this transformative work with your gift or grant, please contact philanthropy@gfi.org.