During the Create Symposium in August, the Singapore National Research Foundation (NRF) announced the launch of the Bioengineering Tools for Next-Generation Cellular Agriculture (CellAg) program. The program, a collaboration between the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJ), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and other research institutions, plans to develop sensors for the early detection of microbial contamination during the production of cell-based foods, as well as to develop compounds that can prevent such contamination without antibiotics. This comes after a report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation earlier in 2023, which identified antibiotic traces and pathogens in animal cells as potential hazards of cell-based meats, risks that also exist in conventionally produced foods.
The program also aims to support the growing cultured meat sector in Singapore, with a proof of concept expected to be completed at the end of an initial 3.5-year phase. If successful, the program is expected to help increase the yield and quality of alternative foods while reducing costs. The launch of this program also comes amidst growing interest in the cultured meat sector, with investments in cultivated meat firms in the Asia-Pacific almost doubling within a year, from USD 35.5 million in 2021 to USD 70 million in 2022. Examples of this growing investment include local firm Esco Aster, which has begun producing small batches of cultivated chicken cells in an 860 square feet space and aims to set up an 80,000 square feet plant by 2025 to produce at least 400 to 500 tons of cell-cultured meat a year.
(Sources: The Straits Times)