Funnily seeing the potential use of AI in alternative protein production, especially in recombinant protein and cultivated meat, I think we should call it AI-based alternative proteins. No, just a joke.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) advancements have propelled this field forward, revolutionising how researchers design, optimise, and scale up recombinant protein production, plant-based protein production, and cultivated meat production processes.

SynBeta podcast has covered the intersection of AI & Synbio in its several recent podcasts with industry experts like:

  • Kyle Griffin from LatchBio has covered the topic of data and computation accessible to scientists.
  • Claire Aldridge, Chief Strategy Officer at FormBio, covered how computation solutions can enhance/empower cell & gene manufacturing.
  • Jason Kelly, Co-founder and CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks, discussed programmable biology and the role of AI in biology.

Let us dive deep into how AI can be a great facilitator, accelerator, and catalyst for the alternative protein industry.

Design, Optimise, and Scale-up Recombinant Protein Production Processes

Central to the shift to alternative proteins is recombinant protein production, a biotechnological process that harnesses the power of microorganisms to produce proteins with diverse applications. When it comes to recombinant protein production, AI can be an aid and enabler to recombinant protein production in the following ways:

  • Protein engineering and design: By leveraging AI algorithms, researchers can analyze complex protein structures, predict functionalities, and modify genetic sequences to optimize protein properties. This fine-tuning results in proteins with improved nutritional profiles, enhanced functionalities, and reduced allergenicity, catering to specific consumer demands and dietary preferences and producing high-quality recombinant proteins for various applications. It opens avenues for developing proteins with unique functionalities, such as emulsification, gelling, or flavor-enhancing properties.
  • Discovery of the right strain: AI-driven high-throughput screening expedites the identification of the most promising microbial strains capable of producing target proteins. This efficiency enhances the discovery process.
  • Reducing overall trial & error: AI-powered predictive analytics enable researchers to anticipate the behavior of biological systems, reducing trial and error and saving valuable time and resources.

While AlphaFold itself is not directly involved in producing alternative proteins, its accurate predictions of protein structures can revolutionize the field of protein engineering and design.

Role of AI in Alternative Proteins
Picture Credits: Andrea D’aquino, Protein Model Courtesy of AlphaFold

Facilitating efficiency, scalability, and cost-effectiveness of the Cultivated Meat Production Process

When it comes to cultivated meat protein production, AI can be an aid and enabler to recombinant protein production in the following ways:

  • Cell-line identification & development: AI algorithms aid in selecting and engineering the most productive and stable cell lines for meat production. It can predict the sensory profile and taste based on the cell lines used and cultivation conditions.
  • Bioprocess optimisation: AI-driven automation and data analytics monitor and control various parameters such as nutrient supply, temperature, and pH levels in bioreactors.
  • Nutrient & media optimisation: AI optimises the cell culture media by predicting the ideal combination of nutrients and growth factors required for efficient cell growth, reducing reliance on costly and scarce ingredients.
Picture Credits : Wired (Photo Illustration; Getty Images)

We don’t think, as investors and entrepreneurs, we should be obsessed with AI. Instead, we should be obsessed with the end outcome that we want to achieve in the alternative proteins, i.e., mimicking animal-derived meats, seafood, and dairy in a kinder, cleaner, and healthier way. We at Beyond Impact feel vary when we see AI too often in the deck because AI is part of the process. It is an enabler, we are not going to put money in a company because it is AI, but rather, it is leveraging AI that is helping scale the biomanufacturing and overall product formulation, making it more cost-effective and efficient.

Here are a few more resources related to the potential of AI in recombinant protein, cultivated meat production, and plant-based protein production in the alternative protein industry: