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Prolific Machines Shines ‘Light’ on a Better Way to Grow Lab Proteins for Food and Medicine

Image Credits: Prolific Machines
By: Headliners News / July 5, 2024

Meet Prolific Machines, an Emeryville, California-based startup, has unveiled a novel bioreactor technology that uses light to control cell growth, marking a significant advancement in the manufacture of proteins for food and medicine. Founded in 2020 by Deniz Kent, Max Huisman, and Declan Jones, the company aims to provide a more efficient and sustainable method for cellular biology processes.

The Challenge with Traditional Methods

Current molecular methods for producing cellular proteins are expensive and imprecise. They rely heavily on recombinant proteins, which can be more costly than gold and difficult to control. These traditional processes are used in various applications, from immunotherapies to nutritional proteins in infant formulas, but they suffer from unpredictability and inefficiency. As their team has expressed, the randomness of cell movement in these processes makes it challenging to achieve consistent results.

A Light-Based Solution

Prolific Machines proposes using light as a more controllable and cost-effective alternative to molecules. Light offers several advantages:

  • Cost-Effective: Light is a cheap commodity.
  • Precision: It can be precisely directed and controlled.
  • Consistency: Light properties remain constant over time.
  • Machine Compatibility: Machines can easily understand and manipulate light.

The company’s bioreactors utilize light to control cellular processes, which can be turned on and off as needed and split into different wavelengths for various applications.

Bioreactor and Technology Components

Prolific Machines’ bioreactor system includes:

  1. Genetic Tools: Strands of DNA activated by light to perform specific functions like eliminating growth factors or transforming cell types.
  2. Cell Lines: A bovine cell chassis for food applications and a Cho cell chassis for pharmaceuticals.
  3. Hardware: Devices that direct light into the bioreactors and measure its interaction with cells.
  4. Software: Algorithms that analyze spectral data to determine optimal light patterns for cell growth.

Funding and Commercialization

To date, Prolific Machines has raised $55 million in Series B financing, bringing its total funding to $86.5 million. The recent Series B round was led by the Ki Tua Fund, the corporate venture arm of Fonterra Co-operative Group, with participation from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Mayfield, SOSV, Shorewind Capital, Darco Capital, Conti Ventures, and In-Q-Tel (IQT). The new funds will be used for commercialization and customer acquisition.

Future Prospects

The new bioreactor technology from Prolific Machines is ready for market and promises to enable more efficient biomanufacture of high-value bioproducts, including nutritional proteins, antibodies for disease treatment, and cultivated meat. The company is now focusing on transitioning from proof-of-concept to widespread commercial use, with plans to announce partnerships in the near future.

Prolific Machines’ innovative use of light in bioreactors represents a significant leap forward in the efficiency and sustainability of cell growth for food and medical applications. By moving away from more traditional, molecule-based methods, the company aims to revolutionize the industry with a technology that offers precision, consistency, and cost-effectiveness.

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