Japanese cell-cultured food startup IntegriCulture raises US$7.4m to scale operations

JAPAN – IntegriCulture Inc., a Tokyo-based biotechnology company producing animal cell-cultured foods has raised  JPY800 million (US$7.4 million) in a Series A fundraising round backed by Beyond Next Ventures, NH Foods, AgFunder and other investors.

Having raised a cumulative amount of about JPY1.1 billion (US$10.2 million) since its inception, IntegriCulture intends to use the proceeds of the latest funding round to commercialize cell-cultured food products.

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The startup further plans to invest in expanding its research and development of cell culture technology capabilities, expand its facilities and equipment as well as its team.

The company has developed a unique patented general-purpose large-scale cell culture system, called “CulNet System.” IntegriCulture explains that the system is a biotechnology platform capable of producing animal cell-based food and materials such as meat, leather and other products.

According to the company, the CulNet System emulates natural animal body endocrine systems to produce cultured serum by culturing target cells with growth factor source cells in connected bioreactors.

The cultured serum then “efficiently and inexpensively” cultures target cells without relying on immortalization or externally added foetal bovine serum or growth factors. The startup says that the system in theory can culture any given animal cells and offers a wide range of applications in food, medical, biochemical and materials products.

IntegriCulture recently launched two cellular agriculture infrastructure enterprise solutions packages under a “Uni-CulNet” scheme on May 7, 2020. The company said that the CulNet System units will be provided to clients by rent or on a sales basis to roll out the cellular agriculture infrastructure.

IntegriCulture’s portfolio also includes, CulNet Pipeline – an enterprise solution to commercialize cellular agriculture products – and CulNet Consortium – the CulNet consortium bringing together global participants in five fields;  cell source, culture medium, CulNet hardware, product bioreactor, and product processing to build cellular agriculture infrastructure.

In the future, the company also plans to expand its portfolio and introduce food grade culture medium and cultured serum as well as launch food grade culture medium “SpaceSalt” in summer 2020 on e-commerce platforms.

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IntegriCulture is also preparing to launch cell-based foie gras in 2021 and processed meat in 2023 and steak in 2025. IntegriCulture revealed that the cell-based foie gras production site will be built in 2020 to prepare for 2021 launch. The funds will be used for R&D, facilities and equipment, and staffing.

“The funds will be used to build accessible cellular agriculture to make 2021 the Year One of democratized cellular agriculture,”said Yuki Hanyu, the Chief Executive of IntegriCulture.

In addition, the startup is also planning to introduce other options such as cultured serum supplements, cell-cultured non-food products such as leather and fur, and cell-cultured products for medical applications.

Commenting on the investment, Rob Leclerc, Founding Partner, AgFunder said: “I don’t think anyone else on the planet has given more thought to how to solve the problems of cultivated meat than Yuki. Bringing down the cost of cell culture media is the central challenge for all cultivated meat companies and IntegriCulture has the most elegant solution we’ve seen to solve this problem.”

IntegriCulture hopes its biotechnology platform will provide means to meet the UN SDGs in the food sector and to achieve democratization of cellular agriculture, in which consumers can produce cellular agriculture products of any categories including food, medical, nutraceuticals, cosmetics, chemicals and materials.

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