Cambridge-based biotech startup Uncommon has made headlines by securing $30 million in a Series A funding round. Formerly known as Higher Steaks, the company aims to disrupt the lab-grown meat industry with its innovative approach. The investment will be utilized to advance their unique methods, scale up production, and navigate the regulatory hurdles that have posed challenges to the sector.
Leading the Series A round were Balderton Capital and Lowercarbon, accompanied by Red Alpine, East Alpha, and previous investors Max and Sam Altman, Miray Zaki, and Sebastiano Castiglioni.
Lab-grown meat has been on the horizon since the unveiling of the world's first cultured burger in London back in 2013. Despite significant capital investments pouring into the sector, only Huber's Butchery and Bistro in Singapore currently offers lab-grown meat to consumers, specifically the product developed by San Francisco-based Eat Just.
It is important to note that lab-grown meat is distinct from plant-based alternatives. It is real meat, produced without the traditional processes of animal breeding and slaughtering. The process involves extracting cells from living animals, nurturing them with proteins, fats, and sugars, and allowing them to multiply and develop within a fermentation tank. Within a month or so, genuine meat is produced.
However, the in vitro cell culturing process entails gene editing, an aspect that regulators rightly scrutinize to ensure safety and integrity. This presents a significant challenge to the industry.
Uncommon sets itself apart from its competitors by utilizing ribonucleic acid (RNA) in its methodology. RNA, similar to DNA, contains chemical markers that guide the cell's natural mechanisms, enabling it to transform into specific proteins, such as bacon or pork belly. By employing RNA, Uncommon bypasses the gene editing process, expediting regulatory approval, scaling production, and ultimately achieving price parity with conventional meats.
Benjamina Bollag, the founder and CEO of Uncommon, believes that their use of RNA technology provides a competitive advantage that positions them to become the world's largest protein company. Bollag expressed her enthusiasm for the company's progress thus far and emphasized her commitment to collaborating with new and existing investors to continue driving advancements in global health.
Uncommon's latest funding round signifies a significant milestone in the cultivated meat industry. With its innovative approach and promising advancements, Uncommon is poised to disrupt the traditional meat market, offering a sustainable and ethical alternative that could shape the future of food production.