Very cool stuff that New Harvest is up to: Labs, cell bank, and Starter Culture

When Isha, Gilonne, and Abi (a PhD student at King’s College) visited Boston today, I was lucky to learn about some of New Harvest’s recent activities. I describe below some of the labs they visited and are working with and a recent pitch they made to the Rockefeller Foundation in New York.

Research Labs New Harvest is working with

The Kaplan Lab at Tufts University does a lot of work in tissue engineering. Although David Kaplan’s lab has not traditionally done work in cultured meat, they’re willing to support such research if a qualified student comes to them with funding. To that end, New Harvest has set up a fellowship program with them.

David Kaplan is planning to work on getting interested researchers in touch with each other and going to the NIH to request substantial funding. This would be a fantastic development in terms of strengthening the research community and could encourage new work in the area.

Also at Tufts is the Omenetto Lab, which is working on creating silk scaffolds to solve the vascularization problem, important to creating 3-D cell structures. Currently, the lab is using silk from silkworms but perhaps they’ll use silk produced from yeasts in the future. Bolt Threads is one company working on yeasts to produce such fibers.

It’s possible that each of the labs above will apply for Seed Grants, and maybe some from other area labs too.

Pitching a cell bank to the Rockefeller Foundation

New Harvest recently pitched the Rockefeller Foundation, which funds animal agriculture research, on the idea of cultured meat. One idea they pitched was creating a cell bank, not unlike the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The difference of course is that the bank would be for cell lines. Isolating cell lines can be a time consuming and expensive task, so creating an institute that kept and was able to distribute such cells would be tremendously beneficial. A bit of history, the Rockefeller Foundation was a major funder of research associated with the Green Revolution.

The New Harvest Starter Culture

New Harvest is helping researchers and labs get access to tools like yeasts and cells to get started. Getting the materials necessary to start a project in cellular agriculture isn’t yet as easy as opening a catalog. They’re calling this initiative the New Harvest Starter Culture.

Today’s thoughts on New Harvest

New Harvest always impresses me with the growing strength of their network and operation. They’re constantly developing connections with highly qualified people who have an interest in cellular agriculture but haven’t done anything about it for lack of a community or funding.

Animal Charity Evaluators fairly named New Harvest a standout charity this year for their potential but lack of a strong track record (e.g., for finding grant recipients — to be fair, it’s something they’ve just recently started advertising). New Harvest has already raised a lot of money this year and their December 2015 $100k match from The Jeremy Coller Foundation means they’ll end the year with even more. I’m very optimistic that New Harvest will be able to find worthwhile grantees in 2016, which I hope will move them into top charity consideration by ACE.