Aleph Farms to make cell-based collagen


Dive Brief:

  • Cell-cultured meat company Aleph Farms is expanding its product line to include collagen. The company says this is building on its strategy to provide an alternative to animal farming, and it is pledging to work on replacing all of the valuable proteins in a cow through cell cultivation.
  • Research on cultivated collagen was done by the company’s newly unveiled incubation accelerator, Aleph Frontiers. The R&D was done in stealth mode for 18 months, and the collagen is now moving to the full product development stage. It is set to launch in 2024. 
  • Aleph Farms just moved into a new 65,000-square-foot facility in Israel, increasing the company’s space six-fold and giving it room to pursue more projects like collagen production. The company is also well-funded, closing a $105 million Series B investment round last year.

Dive Insight:

Collagen, an animal-derived protein that has been said to reduce joint, back and knee pain, as well as improve skin elasticity, has been popular in both beauty products and food for the last several years.

Collagen has traditionally come from the skin and bones of animals, and isn’t exactly cruelty free. In a statement announcing its move into collagen, Aleph Farms noted that meat proteins only make up about a third of the mass that comes from each slaughtered cow. Co-Founder and CEO Didier Toubia said in an emailed statement this means that companies such as Aleph Farms should also be taking a look at the other proteins and applications that people have for the byproducts of animal slaughter.

“To achieve our vision, we need to provide alternatives to the other animal parts as well, including collagen-based products,” Toubia said. “Focusing on single categories of animal products does not account for the complexity of the animal agriculture ecosystem. The protein transition should rely on a systems-based approach to successfully contribute to a comprehensive, just and inclusive meat sector transition.”

The process of using bovine cells to produce collagen is similar to that used to grow meat, according to Aleph Farms. The collagen produced is identical to what is found in nature, the company states, and the production method is largely in synergy with Aleph’s meat-creating work.

Using cell-culturing technology is not the only way to create collagen without slaughtering an animal.

Geltor, a cultured protein developer, debuted an animal-free collagen ingredient last year that is made through precision fermentation. Geltor’s PrimaColl is genetically identical to poultry collagen, and the company says it’s more potent, has less volume and doesn’t have components that affect solubility and complicate formulation. Geltor just completed a five-month commercial-scale manufacturing run of PrimaColl in a partnership with specialty chemicals business Arxada, producing millions of liters of the ingredient.

Aleph Farms also isn’t the only company using cell-culturing techniques to produce collagen. Jellatech, a startup founded in 2020, specializes in making cell-based collagen from a variety of animals. Hong Kong-based Avant has also been working in cell-based collagen, launching its Zellulin product last year for the cosmetics market.

As a company concentrating on reducing the need for animal agriculture, Aleph Farms’ move into other cow-derived proteins is a good idea. The company’s expertise and equipment makes this expansion logical — as does its rationale. What remains to be seen is how much regulatory review is needed to bring a new kind of cell-based ingredient to market, as well as how easily consumers will accept it. Considering many people may not know how most collagen is currently derived, any sort of marketing campaign revealing that fact could give a big boost to interest in a cell-based alternative.

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