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Vive la France! Vive Gourmey’s cell-based foie gras!

By Nathan Benaich and Christoph Janz

A little while ago we wrote about why we both invested in Mission Barns. If you haven’t read the post, d̶o̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶n̶o̶w here’s a very brief summary:

  1. The way meat is currently produced is horrible in terms of animal welfare. It is not sustainable from an environmental point of view and is a long-term threat to the human race.
  2. But humans love meat. So we need a new way to produce meat that doesn’t require factory farming and killing of animals, that’s CO2 neutral, free of food-borne disease, antibiotics, hormones and other nasty chemicals.
  3. Mission Barns is one of the most promising startups that’s developing cultured meat.

In the meantime, Mission Barns has continued to make incredible progress towards its goal of bringing cell-based meat to the market in the near future and has raised a large Series A.

ICYMI: Today is Bastille Day. Photo by Yiwen.

Today we’re thrilled to announce our second cultivated meat investment: Gourmey.

Based in the world’s culinary capital of Paris that’s also home to the renowned Institut Pasteur and Institut Curie, Gourmey has created a cell-based alternative to a meat product that — while being loved around the world for its delicious taste — stands for one of the worst excesses of how humans are (mis)treating animals in order to turn them into food: foie gras. In case you don’t know foie gras (unlikely if you’re from France, more likely if you’re based elsewhere), foie gras is a specialty food made of the liver of a duck or a goose. To produce foie gras the “traditional” way, farmers ram pipes down the throats of geese and ducks to pump excessive amounts of grain and fat into their stomachs, which causes their livers to swell to up to ten times their normal size.

Not surprisingly, foie gras production has already been banned in seventeen countries, including Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Turkey, and the UK. Beyond production, California has even banned the sales of the delicacy, and so has New York City (starting in 2022). If you’re an investor looking for a good “Why now?”, it doesn’t get much better than this. ;-)

Another advantage of foie gras as an entry product is that it’s very expensive. This shortens the time to cost parity for a cultivated alternative. The foie gras market today is worth $2B globally, but more interestingly, there is evidence for an untapped market in the form of consumers who would like to eat foie gras today, but do not because of the horrific treatment of animals. Ultimately, Gourmey’s product will be 10x better and cheaper, to quote another investor’s favorite. :)

On the technology front, cell-based meat is arguably one of the most exciting and impactful grand challenges of our time. There are a range of approaches out there, ranging from cellular reprogramming of mature cell types into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to directly culturing progenitor cells of the desired cell type (e.g. immature liver cells) in adherent or suspension culture systems. Gourmey is developing an avian embryonic stem cell-based (ESC) platform that stands on the shoulders of large-scale suspension ESCs culture, an already established approach in the vaccine industry.

Dr. Marion Gaff, Food Scientist at Gourmey, assessing the texture of a foie gras prototype.

By making use of animal species-specific ESCs, Gourmey can differentiate multiple cell types to generate a range of products beyond foie gras. In fact, the company already has run taste tests for unstructured products like nuggets and texturized meats like fillets. But scalable cell culture is only part of the solution. The other major technology vector is food sciences, which encompasses the molecular engineering to achieve desired tastes and textures as well as the bioprocess engineering of all input ingredients to produce the final restaurant-grade product.

The team that’s making cruelty-free foie gras a reality!

All of this wouldn’t be possible without a resourceful multidisciplinary team full of ingenuity. Cell-based meat production is a novel frontier of biotechnology: in fact, the very first academic department for cell-based meats was only recently launched at the Technical University of Munich .

Gourmey’s founders — Nicolas, Victor, and Antoine — bring a unique combination of scientific, engineering, product, brand marketing experience, and — most importantly, authenticity and passion, that made us fall in love. They’ve built up a team of two dozen talented and dedicated Gourmates who are together making fast progress towards a commercial launch in a restaurant near you soon. :-) If you’d like to join them on that mission, check out Gourmey’s open positions here!

Vive Gourmey! ❤️ 🇫🇷 🦆



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Christoph Janz

Internet entrepreneur turned angel investor turned micro VC. Managing Partner at http://t.co/5WJ3Pepbcv.