Developing a 'High-Throughput Growth Factor Engineering' Pipeline for Improved Biosynthetic Medias in Cultivated Meat

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About This Project

Cultivated meat seeks to revolutionize food infrastructure by developing sustainable production of meat via biotechnology. Techno-economic analyses show a key barrier to economic viability is cost of FBS-free cell growth media; the predominant expense of in medias are growth factors (GFs), responsible for up to 90% of cost. To achieve cost reduction goals, we seek to engineer improved GF performance in cell culture.

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What is the context of this research?

Cultivated meat seeks to revolutionize food infrastructure through sustainable production of livestock-derived products through cell-based biotechnology. Emerging techno-economic analyses have shown a key barrier to economic viability is the cost of FBS-free growth media; the leading expense are growth factors at 90% of the total cost. Reducing cost here is crucial for cultivated meat as a future-staple consumer product; improvements are needed in the cost of growth factor production and the needed dose of GF per liter of active cell culture. This research seeks to create a pipeline to engineer more effective growth factors for directing & sustaining undifferentiated cell culture through defined biosynthetic medias.

What is the significance of this project?

Natural proteins are marginally stable and sensitive to environmental changes. Proteins can be engineered in foreign expression platforms, with variants exhibiting increased yield, decreased degradation, and reduced sensitivity. Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 (FGF2) is an essential pleiotropic regulator of cell proliferation and a huge contributor to media costs. Preliminary work includes a biochemical kinetic model for FGF2 to identify significant engineerable protein parameters. Results show better stabilized and endocytic recycling-prone FGF2 variants decrease the amount needed in media for proliferative culture. Improving such metrics will decrease needed initial concentrations, helping reduce cultivated meat scale-up costs significantly.

What are the goals of the project?

We seek to develop a ‘high throughput growth factor engineering pipeline’ with FGF2 that can be applied to produce various synthetic growth factors that are 1) active longer at 37C; 2) of increased potency; and 3) cheaper to manufacture. Project goals not only seek to optimize growth factors for cultivated meat production, but also to test and utilize protein engineering strategies that have not yet been tested on such class of proteins. This project aims to achieve a fundamental understanding of growth factor-receptor structure-function relationships and define concentration-dependent, isolated growth factor signaling effects, specifically on porcine myogenic, mesenchymal, and iPSC proliferation and differentiation for large-scale cultivated meat development.


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Project Timeline

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May 31, 2025

Project Completion

Meet the Team

Mia Keyser
Mia Keyser

Team Bio

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Mia Keyser

Mia Keyser is a PhD student at the University of Colorado Boulder with a life-long passion for cellular agriculture. She graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, specializing in Cellular Manipulation, and from The University of Colorado Boulder with a Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering. In her undergraduate research, Mia initiated a novel research project on the investigation of artificial food dyes as obesogens, gaining skills in developing and managing biological research projects, routine sterile cell culture and tissue engineering, and assay development and analysis. For her research, Mia received three undergraduate research awards, the 2020 Ken Westerberg Award for Excellence in Research, the 2020 Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award, and graduated with Carnegie Institute of Technology Research Honors. At her graduate institution, Mia received a fellowship as a first-year through the 2020-2021 Graduate Assistantships in Areas of National Need Program and is currently a recipient of the New Harvest Fellowship Program. These fellowships enabled her to work on open-access research to help enable the economic viability of cultivated meat as a mass-produced consumer product. Throughout her graduate education, she additionally has been a part of the leadership team and now serves as the current President of The Boulder Alt. Protein Project, a student organization initiative by the Good Food Institute. It is her goal to become a leader in revolutionizing the US food production infrastructure into a sustainable, environmentally friendly system through the widespread integration of cellular agriculture.

Mia is currently working as a PhD Student/Graduate Research Assistant, co-advised by Dr. Timothy Whitehead and Dr. Stephanie Bryant at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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