The Future Is Now: “Now we can eat real meat without a need to kill animals” With Daan Luining and Fotis Georgiadis
I’m working with a team that’s solving the challenges we face around agricultural farming and cell based meats. We have a patented technology that will help us make any type of animal meat with just a single cell, no reliance on the animals needed later. It’s really revolutionary since it means we will be able to grow meat anywhere, even space. This will help people around the world by reducing environmental impacts from agriculture and reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
As part of my series about “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that seem copied from science fiction, I had the pleasure of interviewing Daan Luining, CTO Meatable. Daan has been involved in the earliest stages of cultured meat creation and production, 2014 with a goal of bringing cultured meat to the world. During his Masters in Biology at Leiden University, he got involved with cultured meat research at the University of Maastricht under Professor Mark Post, who spearheaded the development of the world’s first cultured meat hamburger. Here he published a paper on his research and continued working in the field at New Harvest, a NGO funding academic research in cultured meat, while developing a roadmap for scalable production of cultured meat which now with Meatable he is bringing into practise.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Cultured meat is such an interesting space. I first was interested when I watched Anthony Atala’s TED Talk about organ engineering a 3D printed kidney and bladder in 2012. He cultured a bladder from a patient’s own cells, placed it back into the patient, and it worked! My initial interest in tissue engineering led me to cultured meat because I see the bigger potential in it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
For cultured meat you need cells. The cells we are using come from animals, so for our first cell isolation we had be present at a c-section of a calf. This was done in a clinic so we had to scrub-up. We wanted to isolate cells from the umbilical cord so when the calf was born through the c-section we had to cannulate the cord to extract the blood from it. When I started this I knew we had to do this but to be there and witness a birth of a calf was something really special.
Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
I’m working with a team at Meatable that’s solving the challenges we face around agricultural farming and cell based meats. We have a patented technology that will help us make any type of animal meat with just a single cell, no reliance on the animals needed later. It’s really revolutionary since it means we will be able to grow meat anywhere, even space. This will help people around the world by reducing environmental impacts from agriculture and reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
How do you think this might change the world?
Meatable will be be able to feed the world with a single cell, while helping pause the negative impacts of traditional livestock mass-farming and will reduce animal suffering. It will usher-in the post-animal economy.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Success of this technology will potentially impact farmers. This economic change is very likely to occur at some point but will be a shift for agriculturally based communities that rely on this production method for income. Eventually it will also reduce the need for cows, like what happened with horses, where a cow will maybe become a zoo animal.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
There was. I was working at New-Harvest were I was developing a road-map for cultured meat. One of the things that are hard but very crucial to the process are the cells. One cell type that I thought was particular was suited for cell-based meat was the pluripotent cell. Unfortunately it had 1 shortcoming, they are very hard to control. I was looking for ways to do this in a efficient way but I couldn’t find what I needed so I parked it for the time being. After a couple of months I got a email from one of the fellows telling me about a researcher that created a method to control pluripotent cell extremely well. I was skeptical since I hadn’t found anything that was usable and I searched through a lot of paper, but still curious to learn more. After we had a phone call he had send me his data and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was such a elegant solution to the control problem that after I got back in Europe I called him to ask if he would be interested in using his technology to create cell-based meats and thus Meatable was born.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
It’s all about scalability, which we think we have solved for. For others in this space, you’re reliant on longer lead times or animal products for us it’s just a single cell. People trying our meat will be the ultimate way for us to encourage adoption!
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
We’ve been working with our agencies and partners to help get the word out around the launch and funding. As we continue to develop the product and innovate, we have some fun ideas for how to get more eyeballs and attention on Meatable.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Like you said, success is never achieved alone. Nearly nothing of impact in done by one person and what I am doing is no exception. There are many people that help me to get where I am but maybe the person who helped the most was and got me into this field was professor Mark Post. He was de prof. that created the first lab-grown hamburger. When I had gotten the idea to pursue this field I found out that he was giving a talk in my town. I decided to join the talk and after he was done my friends pushed me to the front where I, very nervously, asked if he would have space for me to join and do research on the project. When he gave me his card and told me to call when I would be ready….. I was ecstatic for the coming days, and till this day I am grateful that he gave me that opportunity.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’m not sure I would say I’ve already achieved success, but I hope that as Meatable continues to grow that I can give other people the same opportunity that I had gotten from professor Post. I get a lot of emails from people asking if they can help the project but unfortunately most of the time I have to say no. It would really would like it if I could say YES most of the time, and let people who are as passionate as myself about the topic help out and welcome them into a team of like minded people.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Pitching is exhausting. When me and my co-founder were fundraising we had days that we woke up at 4 in the morning to catch a flight to London where we had 6 meetings scheduled. Every meeting we told the same story and tried to be genuine every time but after the 4th meeting it is very hard to tell the story with the same excitement. One time my co-founder asked if I was not sick of him telling the same things over and over again. I had wondered the same thing and we burst into laughter.
Being a co-founder is a marriage. I am super lucky my co-founder is a perfect match with me. We were introduced by a common connection without knowing each other. We are complete opposites when it comes to food, music, lifestyle, philosophy, basically anything. But we are both quite reasonable which makes arguing sometimes a bit heated but never unpleasant. We love to debate ideas or challenge each other and this brings the company forward everytime we clash but never let our passion get the better of us. A lot of talking helps understanding where the other person is coming from and since both of us are super direct, there is no chance for a grudge. I couldn’t be more happy with him but it takes a lot of work from both sides.
Being an entrepreneur is awesome. The thrill of pitching, presenting in front of a lot of people, starting to forming a team, getting funded, buying furniture for your office. It super exciting and awesome. Nothing beats the experiences you get from starting your own company. What could be better than working on your own ideas and dreams to seeing them becoming reality?
Don’t forget to celebrate. Being a entrepreneur is a rollercoaster and sometimes celebrating a success is overshadowed by the work that the success brings. You have to take a moment and celebrate these successes because you never know when the next one is going to be.
I don’t have a 5th one 🙂
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start the “stop killing each other” movement were our main goal is to stop people from killing each other over stupid things like race, religion, sexuality, or whatever dumb reason people can think of to justify killing another person. Didn’t think we would have to start a movement but apparently we do.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Can’t say I have one. I am always afraid that the quote is not really from the person and that it might make me look ignorant and stupid if I would quote someone something that was never said by that person. I do have a quote which I think is funny but don’t know if it is real:
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.
– Albert Einstein –
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Cultured meat has massive potential to reduce environmental, human, and animal suffering. This method of producing meat meat does not require to slaughter an animal. We can use the cell from animals to create the muscle and fat cells that are needed to produce the meat that many people enjoy. Not only can we reduce our reliance on animals but we can start to redefine what meat can be through having control over what the cells “eat”. This way we can possibly make healthier and better balanced meat by controlling the amount of fats, protein or any other type of nutrient. With one cell we can change everything.
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The Future Is Now: “Now we can eat real meat without a need to kill animals” With Daan Luining… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.