Clear Meat, founded by Dr Siddharth Manvati and Dr Pawan Dhar in 2018, has been pioneering developments in the cultivated or cell-cultured meat category in India. The company has already developed minced chicken and is planning a tasting event by March 2023. It recently received its first patent for its animal-free growth medium – ClearX9. The Vegan Indians spoke to Dr Manvati to get a deeper understanding of the latest developments. Here are the excerpts:
First of all, congratulations on achieving this feat! Developing an animal-free media in India and patenting it is another first for the cell cultured segment in the country. It is nothing short of a revolution. Pls tell us more about your motivation as well as the struggles you faced during the development period.
Eliminating animal slaughter for food is our core motivation for starting the company. It is not easy when you start with almost nothing and survival odds are heavily stacked against you. But I guess struggles help you overcome limitations. You learn to use ’failure as a fertilizer’.
Why did you feel there is a need for an animal-free growth media? Besides being cruelty-free, are there any other advantages?
Every year, millions of pregnant cows are slaughtered to extract Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS). The heart of a live and unborn calf is punctured to collect unclotted blood, which is then refined to prepare serum. This is unspeakable animal cruelty in the name of human survival.
FBS is a critical and most expensive component of the animal cell culture media, as it contains essential growth factors and supplements for cell growth. The global demand for FBS has significantly surged over the last few decades due to rapid growth of biotech and pharma industries. The latest entrant is the ‘cultured food industry’ that uses FBS due to the lack of a credible media alternative.
ClearX9 has given encouraging results on a wide variety of primary animal cells and cell lines. In certain cases, ClearX9 gave better growth response than FBS supplemented medium. It comes at a fraction of cost of the FBS. It is affordable, scalable and delivers comparable performance. We believe ClearX9 will reduce the cost of cell culture by 80% or more.
Companies like IntegriCulture and Upside Foods have also developed animal-free media. How is Clear X9 different?
IntegriCulture’s CulNet system seems to use feeder cells that secrete suitable serum components to support cell growth. It seems UPSIDE has managed to find non-animal components to grow meat cells. Another significant competitor is CellMeat from South Korea, which has developed CSF-A1, an FBS alternative in-house.
ClearX9 is a breakthrough, affordable and scalable product developed in-house from naturally available components that do not require animal slaughter. The solution has been successfully tested on a variety of cell lines and the soft launch of the product has been incredibly successful. We are preparing to launch ClearX9 at a commercial scale by December 2022 or earlier.
What are your immediate plans? Are you ready to debut your cultured chicken?
As FBS is critical to the survival and evolution of the cultured meat sector, our focus is heavily on the commercial launch of ClearX9 at this time. However, we are also looking at the launch of cultured chicken tasting event by March 2023 or earlier. Having already achieved proof-of-the-concept, we are excited to deliver cultured chicken cells with ClearX9 supplemented medium.
Do you feel India is ready for this food tech revolution?
Absolutely! India has a huge user base and a highly ‘taste sensitive’ and a ‘price sensitive’ market. Our young and vibrant generation cares a lot about animal slaughter. We believe they will be the key driving force in starting a new food tech movement in India. However, we are planning to offer the ClearX9 solution to cultured meat industries at a global scale.