This PhD student has found a way to slash the cost of cultivated meat by 50%

For Elijah Mojares, meat has always been at the centre of family interactions, a comfort food carrying a level of nostalgia. Native Filipino dishes such as beef kare-kare and pork sinigang are among his favourites, and remind him of home.

Growing up, as he became aware of the impact of meat consumption on the environment — the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that global livestock alone accounts for more than 14% of all man-made greenhouse gases — he found it increasingly difficult to reconcile the two.

Now a PhD student in medical engineering at Queen Mary University of London, Mojares researches the design of novel stem cell technologies, and with his team has developed a new method to scale up and significantly reduce the cost of cultivated meat production, which he’s spinning out as part of Conception X Cohort V. His startup is Liquibio.

“All the promises of cultivated meat, such as cutting down greenhouse gas emissions and minimising land use, haven’t happened yet,” Mojares says. “This is because customers would still have to pay twice as much for a cultivated burger than a traditionally farmed burger. At Liquibio, we’re transforming the way we culture cells, using a liquid substrate that’s biodegradable, to make the process easier, more efficient, scalable — and more sustainable.”

According to Mojares, one of the main challenges is that the cultivation process has so far borrowed from the pharmaceutical industry, focusing on safety rather than efficiency and scalability.

“From customer conversations with cultivated meat companies, we’ve heard it’s a risky market and no one has really figured out how to break even with capital expenditure,” he says. “The most common approach to scaling up is to grow cells on solid plastic substrates, which are expensive, produce a lot of microplastic waste, and demand complex downstream processing. The result is a 20–40% loss throughout the process, which means you need to invest in more bioreactors to grow the same amount of meat. We can bring down that loss to 10%, reducing capital expenditure.”

Liquibio’s technology promises to be 10 times cheaper than commercially available methods, and can reduce production times and costs up to 50%. While the final price of meat cultivated with the startup’s innovative process would likely vary based on cut and type, it would be closer to that of farmed meat.

Mojares joined Conception X Cohort V to figure out how to commercialise his research through training, coaching and exposure to deeptech experts during the final year of his PhD programme.

“I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship, but I wanted to develop my research skills and scientific rigour first,” he says. “Conception X is a good jumping pad to get into entrepreneurship — it gives you structure, it helps you identify the problem you’re trying to solve with your technology and how you’re going to do it, and it pushes you to build your network.”

Throughout the programme, Mojares reached out to potential customers in Singapore, the first country to greenlight the sale of cultivated meat back in 2020, to learn more about the industry and its challenges, and is now in the process of establishing a partnership with a cultivated seafood company.

Liquibio has also been awarded a UK Fast Start Innovation grant from UK Innovate and plans to further develop its prototype, build its team and apply for additional grant funding.

For Mojares, his research and startup are an attempt to reengineer our food systems to make them more sustainable, but he also envisions a long-term ripple effect beyond the food industry, to include regenerative medicine.

“At the core, it’s a matter of improving accessibility,” Mojares says. “Imagine what would happen if we could bring down the cost of sustainable alternatives to farmed meat — and of life-saving cell therapies further down the line.”

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Conception X

Conception X

Venture builders creating deeptech startups from leading research labs and PhD programmes around the UK. conceptionx.org