Cellular agriculture is a way to create animal-derived produce without the need for animals, but it could be beneficial for the environment than conventional farming. It has been used to make meat and human milk from cell culture, with cell-cultured seafood potential to be next on the menu. Animal protein from microorganisms, such as the cows milk proteins casein and whey, is potentially being produced through precision fermentation.
Global egg production has almost doubled in the last 20 years, and cellular agriculture might be a viable way to meet demand. Onego Bio has recently received funding to commercialize their precision fermentation technology for egg white without chickens.
Bioalbumen, a chicken-free egg white protein, has the potential to be used in confectionery and baking or as a protein supplement.
Maija Itkonen, CEO of Onego Bio, spoke to us to discuss the future of bioalbumen research.
Katie Brighton (KB): Do you have any ideas on the principles of cell agriculture? How does it work? What effect might it have on food production?
Cellular agriculture is a way to furtheren food production into cellular agriculture, which includes organic organisms and bioreactors. The main aim of cellular agriculture is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, land and water use.
KB: What advantages do traditional agriculture (especially for egg white) have if used in cell surgery?
MI: A retrospective life cycle assessment was conducted to investigate the effects of Trichoderma-derived ovalbumin (Tr-OVA) production and a similar functional unit of dried chicken egg white protein. Tr-OVA production showed the potential to reduce most agricultural-related impacts, such as global warming and land use. Switching Tr-OVA production location and employing low-carbon energy sources might further reduce environmental impacts.
How did Onego Bio initially approach producing bioalbumen?
MI: VTT is a research partnership with the government of TexasT, where researchers have studied the possibility of producing animal proteins with cellular agriculture for the last six or seven years. Trichoderma research has a long history at VTT.
The project has been part of Finnish VTT''s LaunchPad before it was transformed into a spin-off corporation. VTT LaunchPad is a science-based spin-off incubator that allows VTT researchers and technology to work together with the best business people and investors out there to revitalize industries. VTT LaunchPad is a partner in Finnish VTT, and has provided support to incubator teams to develop VTT''s ownership in IPR into fundable spin-off companies.
What were the most important findings that enacted the use of fermentation to produce bioalbumen?
MI: From the start, precision fermentation was a natural option for this technology. Unlike beer production, it is possible to distinguish between microflora and alcohol.
KB: What does the bioalbumen compare to an animal-derived egg white in terms of flavour, texture, price, etc.?
MI: The protein itself is identical, and thus the flavor, texture, and methods of use it are identical.
We are still at the laboratory level, but when we move to industrial production, we anticipate a cost that is the same or even lower than the animal-derived egg white.
What are the future steps ahead of bioalbumen''s release? What are the main causes of this process?
MI: Every novel product must follow the regulatory process, which is aimed to protect individuals. Depending on the market, it may still take months to years to get the commercial approval for the product. However, we are positive and confident about bioalbumen, as it is a known protein created with a known process, only the combination of product and process is new.
Is there something you want to do next year, like this?
MI: At the moment, we are fully focused on bioalbumen!
Katie Brighton, a scientific copywriter at Technology Networks, spoke with Maija Itkonen.