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Unicorn Bio to build modular, automated bioreactors for cultivated meat sector
Hannah DeTavis
Unicorn Biotechnologies' team
Unicorn Biotechnologies’ team. Source: Unicorn Biotechnologies

Unicorn Biotechnologies (HAX 2021) is getting in on the cultivated meat market from the infrastructural end, building modular bioreactors to rapidly scale cellular agriculture products. To this end, the company recently raised $3.2M to commercialize its prototype bioreactor. Acequia Capital took the lead on the round, with SOSV, Marinya Capital, Alumni Ventures, C3, CULT Food Science, and others adding their support. The news was featured in TechCrunch.

Unicorn’s bioreactor takes a modular approach, using several systems operating in parallel. This will allow cultivated meat companies to control smaller batches and easily add or subtract systems to meet demand. The machine is also highly automated, allowing operators to add starting ingredients, select the product they intend to grow, and watch the system take care of the rest using built-in sensing and machine learning.

While Unicorn doesn’t intend to make lab-grown meat itself, it hopes its manufacturing process can help companies who already have a promising cell line or growth method. Such companies can tap into Unicorn’s bioreactors as they scale up instead of spending time and resources repurposing old brewing technology from another era.

“Most biomanufacturing systems were designed and optimized for making bacteria (making enzymes) or yeast (brewing beer) or are focused on making the byproducts of animal cells (vaccines), not the animal cells themselves,” said Jack Reid, co-founder and CEO of Unicorn Bio. “Using this legacy hardware to cultivate meat requires one to reengineer the cells. Our approach and core conviction is that it is actually easier, and ultimately better, to design new hardware systems aimed to foster the growth around the cells, rather than trying to fit these cells to existing engineering systems.”