Cellular Agriculture won Connect2Innovate for novel technology to assist lab culture of clean meat


Written by Mingke Pan / Edited by Josephine Pepper

In partnership with Merck Accelerator and Clustermarket, the series of events ‘Connect2Innovate’ aimed to support innovative startups working on novel technologies related to three Innovation Fields which Merck’s Innovation Center is working on to drive innovation beyond the Company’s current scope.: Clean Meat, Bio-Sensing & Interfaces and Liquid Biopsy Technologies.


After several meetups with experts from Merck, local entrepreneurs and academic researchers, startups working in these fields pitched their projects and six of them were selected to attend the final pitch night on the 18th September. These startups included Aksense Medtech, Cambridge Cancer Genomics, Cellular Agriculture, CellulaREvolution, HigherSteaks and Rosa Biotech. The finalists were assessed based by a panel of five experts from Merck on their pitch quality as well as their fit into Merck’s strategic development and its internal resources.

 The winning teams


The big winner of the pitch event was Cellular Agriculture, the first UK startup in the cell-meat space. This startup integrates the expertise of bioprocessing into sustainable agriculture and food production. With that novel technology, it aims to create a new bioreactor that would facilitate lab cultivation of multi-species cell-based meat.  

When asked about the next step of their startup, IIItud Llyr Dunsford, the CEO of Cellular Agriculture, said: “At the moment we are working on material design inside the bioreactor. Next year we have different cell types being delivered by some of the pioneer companies, and we would like to see how different cell types work with our machinery and the material we developed.” 

The prize for the first-place winner was a £4,000-cash award, a Sigma Aldrich voucher for laboratory supplies, as well as a Golden Ticket to the Merck Accelerator Selection Days, the last selection step before joining the Merck Accelerator at the Merck Innovation Center in the company´s headquarters in Germany. The 3-month Merck Accelerator  program connects startups to innovation projects of Merck and its three business sectors for co-development and sustainable business partnerships. Within the Accelerator, the Innovation Center is particularly looking for startups within strategically relevant Innovation Fields, such as Clean Meat. As a leader in life sciences and biotechnology and with expertise in cell line engineering, culture media and bioprocessing technologies, Merck is well positioned to accelerate cell-based meat development as a solution provider and technology enabler.

“It would be ideal to find a partner to scale our technologies in media formulation and material scaffold design, despite challenges in changing business models,” said Dunsford, who seemed excited about this opportunity.


In second place came CellulaREvolution who is revolutionising the way cell culture is done. This startup designs self-assembling peptides that provide different benefits for the cultivation of adherent cells. The technology can be employed in the production of clean meat, as well as, biologics, cellular medicines and research consumables.  

Finally, in third place came Cambridge Cancer Genomics who uses liquid biopsies and smart genomics to transform the way cancers are treated. Their technology shortens the time needed to identify whether the treatment works and reduces the impacts of ineffective treatments. 

Reflecting on the series of meetups ‘Connect2Innovate’, Dr Martina Miotto, founder of CellulaREvolution, said: “It was a great opportunity to network with a mixture of the public, scientists and investors, and I thoroughly enjoyed the event.”

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About Science Entrepreneur Club:

The Science Entrepreneur Club (SEC) is a non-profit organisation of curious minds that aims to explore and unite the life science ecosystem by educating, inspiring and connecting. We give scientific entrepreneurs a network and a platform to showcase their innovative technologies, find investors and accelerate their company.

The Merck Accelerator
The global Merck Accelerator program with programs in Merck´s headquarters in Darmstadt and in China, supports startups with the final objective of partnering up with them. Selected companies receive mentoring and in-depth coaching from a network comprised of experts from 66 countries opening up opportunities for startups’ future collaboration with Merck and helping to introduce startups to the contacts they need to close their first deals. Additionally, the startup teams benefit from financial support as well as from work space at the Merck Innovation Center in Darmstadt where they can develop product prototypes and exchange ideas with other startup teams and Merck experts. Applications for the global Merck Accelerator are open and there are different ways of qualifying to participate in the program: Participate via “Connect2innovate” meetups and networking events or applying directly to the program via the Accelerator website that accepts applications until August 25th.

For application and more information visit http://accelerator.merckgroup.com/

Press ReleaseTobias