This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with Nathan Chesmore, co-founder and scientific director for Agulos Biotech.

This Lake Mills-based company produces a serum product based on blood plasma that is commonly used by other biotechnology companies for growing cells. Most of these companies use a competing product called fetal bovine serum, he explained.  


There’s been some academic research around the use of platelet lysate (a liquid derived from blood platelets) as an alternative culture medium. Agulos Biotech is working on a simulated version of porcine platelet lysate.


Cultured meat refers to meat created using cell culture techniques within a laboratory or manufacturing facility. It is produced by growing master cells collected from cattle, chicken, pigs, fish, and lamb, as well as other types of livestock and seafood. In addition to meat and seafood production, cultured meat techniques can be used to ethically manufacture other types of animal products, such as leather, as well as animal byproducts, including lab-grown milk and hen-free egg whites, for example. Cultured meat is ethically produced because livestock is not used within the manufacturing processes beyond collecting the initial cells required for cell culture.


At least six startups—Agulos Biotech, Back of the Yards Algae Sciences, Biftek, Cultured Blood, Future Fields, and Multus Media—concentrate on low-cost, serum-free cell culture media or media ingredients, such as growth factors or growth factor mimetics, for producers and researchers in the cultivated meat field.


Cellular agriculture is the controlled and sustainable manufacture of agricultural products with cells and tissues without plant or animal involvement. Today, microorganisms cultivated in bioreactors already produce egg and milk proteins, sweeteners, and flavors for human nutrition as well as leather and fibers for shoes, bags, and textiles. Furthermore, plant cell and tissue cultures provide ingredients that stimulate the immune system and improve skin texture, with another precommercial cellular agriculture product, in vitro meat, currently receiving a great deal of attention. All these approaches could assist traditional agriculture in continuing to provide for the dietary requirements of a growing world population while freeing up important resources such as arable land. Despite early successes, challenges remain and are discussed in this review, with a focus on production processes involving plant and animal cell and tissue cultures.


A few newer companies such as Agulos Biotech and Defined Bioscience are developing serum replacements for cell culture applications, although their products are not specifically geared towards cultivated meat.


Agulos Biotech (US, 2017, cell culture media) — developing Simulated Platelet Lysate (porcine), a replacement for FBS.


Based on our interviews with cell-based meat developers, serum-free medium continues to be one of the most expensive roadblocks on the path to large-scale production of cell-based meat. Most startups claim to be developing their own proprietary serum-free medium variations; however, most have not yet succeeded in bringing down costs associated with added growth factors. To this end, startups like IntegriCulture are working toward creating a continuous flow system by co-culturing muscle stem cells and cells that produce growth factors in connected bioreactors to bring down costs. Another development in the space is the rise of startups focused mainly on optimizing cell-specific serum-free media. Such startups are open to a B2B model to work together with other startups for suitable media composition. Recent examples include Future Fields, Agulos BioTech, and Multus Media, with the latter employing fermentation-based approaches to produce growth factors. Given the utmost importance of cost-efficient growth media, we expect bigger players like Merck and Thermo Fischer Scientific as well as smaller startups to offer more personalized B2B approaches.