Engineering Biology
Food & Agriculture Challenge:

Produce more food for a growing global population.

Improve production of “clean meat”.

Engineering Biology Objectives & Technical Achievements

Increase the diversity, availability, and optimization of characterized and standardized cell lines used for clean meat.

Engineering DNA Biomolecular Engineering Host Engineering Data Science

Create cell line libraries (to include stem cells, myoblasts, etc.) with desired phenotypes, including taste, texture, and aroma.

Develop biosensors/reporters for cell lines that provide readouts for suboptimal performance or culture conditions to accelerate research and development.

Engineer synthetic pathways to render differentiation responsive to inexpensive triggers (e.g., a unique sugar, rather than a complex growth factor cocktail).

Increase proliferation/division rate of cells to improve biomass accumulation rate.

Increase genetic stability of cells to maintain genetic integrity over generations.

Select for or engineer cells to exhibit higher propensity to differentiate down desired pathways (muscle, fat, etc.) and low propensity to pursue undesirable pathways (bone, tendon, etc.).

Create database of cell line characteristics, including genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic data.

Establish shared dataset of metabolic parameters from a wide variety of cell lines under various growth conditions to facilitate systems biology approach to metabolic pathway engineering and modeling.

Engineer renewable and alternative growth media to support cell growth and health.

Engineering DNA Biomolecular Engineering Host Engineering Data Science

Improve expression or specific activity of proteins in growth pathways in native organisms.

Maximize production of growth and maturation factors while minimizing impact on growth of hosts, i.e., on/off expression system development.

Create multiple genes encoding various biosynthetic enzymes or constructing novel pathways to produce growth factors.

Use rational design or directed evolution to engineer growth factor variants/mimics that are, for example, more stable, more potent, have higher binding affinity.

Utilize small molecule screens or natural product screens to identify entirely new growth factor mimics.

Engineer yeast or other cost-effective hosts to produce growth factors and other small molecules useful in cell culture media.

Model maximum theoretical yield obtainable for growth factors produced in a variety of cost-effective hosts to enable educated host choices.

Develop machine learning-informed algorithms for more sophisticated Design-of-Experiments to expand the explorable space for medium formulations with many variables.

Incorporate empirical information from highly-parallelized microfluidics platforms to assess cell performance in novel formulations.

Merge insights from spent media analysis with systems biology modeling of metabolic pathways to understand how to bias metabolism toward biomass and protein accumulation.

Improve bioscaffolding materials and perfusion systems to grow larger, more complex, tastier, and thicker pieces of “meat”.

Engineering DNA Biomolecular Engineering Host Engineering Data Science

Create biodegradable and/or edible scaffold biomaterials from biomolecules.

Evaluate a wide variety of native and modified biopolymers from the plant, fungal, and bacterial kingdoms for suitability to create tunable hydrogel scaffolds, specifically for properties like photoresponsiveness (photopolymerization, light-induced degradation, etc.) for fabricating more spatially defined scaffolds.

Enzyme screening and engineering to make specific modifications to plant- or fungal-derived biopolymer scaffolds (for example, modified cellulose).

Engineer plants or other low-cost biomass platforms (such as fungal platforms) to express peptides that make scaffolds derived from them more amenable to animal cell attachment.

Examine effects of growth conditions and strain selection on producing scaffolds with desirable properties from fungal hosts (such as mycelium or secreted proteins).

Engineer animal cells to produce enzymes and/or attachment molecules that enable a wider variety of scaffold materials or scaffold remodeling in situ to more closely mimic native extracellular matrix-cell interaction.

Produce fluid dynamic models for in silico prediction of appropriate scaffold architecture, culture medium viscosity and flow rates, required nutrient and dissolved oxygen concentrations, among other properties for supporting thick tissue perfusion.

Develop empirically validated scaling factors for facilitating upscale from bench to production in tissue perfusion bioreactors.


Stephens, N., Di Silvio, L., Dunsford, I., Ellis, M., Glencross, A., & Sexton, A. (2018). Bringing cultured meat to market: Technical, socio-political, and regulatory challenges in cellular agriculture. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 78, 155–166. View Publication

Last updated: June 19, 2019 Back