EngBio Innovator Spotlight: bit.bio/Meatable

UK companies are working across a diverse range of applications of engineering biology. Featured in the 'Power of Biology: The UK is engineering biology for global good' report, the following case study highlights bit.bio/Meatable and gives additional insight into how this transformative technology can be used across healthcare, industry and agriculture. 

Q: What does the company do?

A: bit.bio uses its opti-oxTM technology to reprogram human stem cells (cell raw material with the potential to transform) into functional human cells for research, drug discovery and cell therapy. Meatable is using the same opti-ox technology created by bit.bio to reprogram animal stem cells to make functional, mature animal muscle and fat cells in order to cultivate meat in the lab.

Q: How does the technology work?

opti-ox is a precision cell reprogramming technology – it’s essentially a control system that is inserted into the DNA of a stem cell – when it’s switched on, it reprograms the stem cell into a new type of cell. Each type of cell in the human body has a particular code. Once a scientist has identified this piece of code, opti-ox technology is used to insert it into specific locations in the DNA called genomic safe harbour sites. This protects the new piece of code from being silenced by the immune system. When activated, this code establishes a new program that converts the stem cell into a new identity. opti-ox is unique because it reprograms every cell in a culture dish - it’s a breakthrough in reprogramming that for the first time allows fast, consistent manufacture of highly defined cell products at commercial scale. bit. bio is also building a machine learning and wet lab platform called Discovery to identify the codes for every single human cell type and sub-cell identity – we call this the Operating System of LifeTM or LifeOSTM.

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Q: What impact is the technology having?

The versatility of the technology means that it has applications in both healthcare and agriculture. There are three areas where this type of technology is already having an impact on healthcare.

1. Enabling cell therapies.

In cell therapies by providing a technology platform to create any human cell consistently at commercial scale: For example, you can produce a liver cell to repair liver damage by replacing lost cells, and help the body recover through the way these cells also interact with other cells in the local environment.

2. Improving drug discovery.

There’s not a mouse on this planet that suffers from Alzheimer’s because it’s a human disease. Using animal models to discover and test medicines before they enter human clinical trials is standard practice but can lead to surprises downstream when the reality of human biology doesn’t match what was seen in mice. opti-ox enables a smarter discovery process using bit.bio’s ioCells portfolio, which provides human cells and disease models for research and drug discovery in lieu of animal models for this key preclinical testing. Scientists can better predict outcomes and have more confidence going into clinical trials with cells actually affected by the condition that they want to treat.

3. Creating new standards in biological research.

There are reproducibility challenges in biology due to working with materials where there is no standard cell. opti-ox technology means that the same type of cell can be accurately reproduced, over and over again, supplying biologists with a standard cell for R&D.

Cultured meat at scale.

Meatable is utilising opti-ox technology to create porcine fat and muscle cells at scale. There are real benefits to cultured meat over industrial farming, as a more human and environmentally friendly alternative. For example – not having to mass rear and slaughter animals, avoiding the heavy use of antibiotics meaning less chance of contributing to antibiotic resistance, no risk of pathogens passing between animals and humans, and cutting greenhouse gases bringing us closer to the net zero target.

What is the future for the company?

It’s exciting. The application of bit.bio’s technology platform is highly diverse and the company is looking to move into cell and gene therapies as well as bringing standardisation and industrialisation to human cells to support drug discovery and clinical trials. Meatable will be looking to partner with other supply chain companies to help scale up production.

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