Biotech unicorn Ginkgo Bioworks said today it’s launching a new spinoff called Motif Ingredients which will work on developing proteins that can serve as meat and dairy replacements. Boston-based Motif is starting out the gate with $90 million in Series A funding.
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In its statement about the new company, Ginkgo said Motif Ingredients will “leverage biotechnology to create novel solutions for foods.” Specifically, Motif will use biotechnology and fermentation – rather than animal agriculture – to “engineer dozens of proteins derived from dairy, egg and meat.”
Breakthrough Energy Ventures (whose founders include Bill Gates, Jack Ma, and Jeff Bezos), Louis Dreyfus Corp., Fonterra Ventures, and Viking Global Investors are among the company’s investors. Jonathan McIntyre, who was once head of R&D at Indigo Agriculture and former SVP of R&D at PepsiCo, has been tapped to serve as Motif’s CEO.
“Sustainability and accessible nutrition are among the biggest challenges facing the food industry today. Consumers are demanding mindful food options, but there’s a reigning myth that healthy and plant-based foods must come at a higher price, or cannot taste or function like the animal-based foods they aim to replicate,” said McIntyre in a written statement.
Kristen Eshak Weldon, head of food innovation and downstream strategy at Louis Dreyfus, said in a statement that her firm’s investment in Motif was based on the belief that “innovative or disruptive solutions are key to responding to changing consumer demand and to addressing the challenge of feeding a growing world population sustainably.”
Last June, Crunchbase News’s Joanna Glasner reported that up until that point more than $600 million in known funding had gone to what we’ve dubbed the “alt-meat” sector, according to Crunchbase data. Actual investment levels may be quite a bit higher since strategic investors don’t always reveal round size.
She also wrote in August 2017 that some of the companies in the space had raised substantial sums of venture capital, including Bay Area-based Impossible Foods. That company, which is focused on developing plant-based substitutes for meat and dairy products, has raised a total of $387.5 million since it was founded in 2011.
The Motif launch and monster Series A only add to the trend.
Photo credit: Alex Wilhelm