Startups Bet That Lab-to-Table Will Be Next Food Trend

By Jacob Bunge Several startups are racing to be the first to fill U.S. consumers’ plates with laboratory-developed hamburgers and sausages that taste just as good as the kind from cattle and pigs.Memphis Meats Inc., a San Francisco company founded by three scientists, aims in three to four years to be the first to sell meat grown from animal cells in steel tanks. Rivals including Mosa Meat and Modern Meadow Inc. also aim to bring such “cultured meat” to market in the next several years.The competition highlights how these efforts have expanded since the 2013 taste test of a burger grown in a lab through a multiyear, $330,000 project funded by Google Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin and spearheaded by physiologist Mark Post . Reviews of the patty were mixed, but encouraged Mr. Post, who co-founded Netherlands-based Mosa Meat, to press on.The startups’ lofty goal is to remake modern animal agriculture, which the United Nations estimates consumes one-third of the world’s grains, with about a quarter of all land used for grazing. The companies say that growing meat with cells and bioreactors—similar to fermentors used to brew beer—consumes a fraction of the nutrients, creates far less waste and avoids the need for antibiotics and additives commonly used in meat production.“The meat industry knows their products aren’t sustainable,” said Memphis Meats Chief Executive Uma Valeti, a cardiologist and medical professor at the University of Minnesota. “We believe that in 20 years, a majority of meat sold in stores will be cultured.”The potential payoff could be enormous—American spent $186 billion on meat and poultry in 2014—and this month, Memphis Meats plans to announce its strategy and about $2 million in funding from venture-capital firms including SOSV LLC and New Crop Capital.Some in the meat industry are skeptical that consumers, many of whom are demanding “natural” or organic food made without additives or genetically modified ingredients, will embrace meat grown from animal cells. Representatives for major meat suppliers Tyson Foods Inc., Hormel Foods Corp. and Perdue Farms Inc. declined to comment, saying the technology was still too new.But enthusiasm for new technology to satisfy consumers’ hunger for meat is high among venture-capital firms and Silicon Valley investors. Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams have invested in plant-based protein companies Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods Inc.Memphis Meats grows meat by isolating cow and pig cells that have the capacity to renew themselves, and providing the cells with oxygen and nutrients such as sugars and minerals. These cells develop inside bioreactor tanks into skeletal muscle that can be harvested in between nine and 21 days, Mr. Valeti said.While the source cells can be collected from animals without slaughtering them, Memphis Meats and others have relied on fetal bovine serum, drawn from unborn calves’ blood, to help start the process. Mr. Valeti said Memphis Meats will be able to replace the serum with a plant-based alternative in the near future, and Mr. Post says he also expects to be able to eliminate its use. Without the serum, there will be no need for antibiotics, according to the researchers.Mosa Meat, which Mr. Post started with Maastricht University food technician Peter Verstrate, aims to sell cultured ground beef to high-end restaurants and specialty stores in four to five years, and is fielding interest from potential investors, Mr. Post said. Though the method’s efficiency and environmental aspects strike a chord with some consumers, “it will take time and early adopters” to catch on, he said.Modern Meadow is working on cultured leather, which could be for sale in two to three years, according to Sarah Sclarsic, business director for the Brooklyn, N.Y., company. Meat, she said, “is a longer-term mission for us.”The meat startups say their main challenge will be scaling up production while keeping costs low enough that cultured meat costs—and tastes—about the same as meat sliced from animals. Currently it costs about $18,000 to produce a pound of Memphis Meats’ ground beef, compared with about $4 a pound in U.S. grocery stores, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Eventually Memphis Meats and Mosa Meat aspire to sell more-complex products like steak, and make meat healthier by growing cells that contain less saturated fat.Memphis Meats officials say they have had discussions with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration on how their food will be regulated. The FDA would likely review the cultured meat before the USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service would begin regulating the product and how it is processed, a USDA spokesman said. Memphis Meats plans to eventually unveil its meat at restaurants and retailers, including several Memphis-area barbecue restaurants that are co-owned by William Clem, a tissue scientist who teamed up with Mr. Valeti and Nick Genovese, a stem cell biologist, to start the company.Mr. Clem said he has been pitching the cultured meat idea to regular guests of his chain, Baby Jack’s BBQ, some of whom are skeptical and others interested.“This is probably the toughest market you can imagine for something like this. It’s Memphis, Tenn., it’s all about tradition,” Mr. Clem said. “We’ve got a road map to start small and introduce it to people and get some feedback.” Memphis Meats has discussed its product with food service distributors U.S. Foods Inc. and Sysco Corp., he added. Steve Lieber, global brand head of BurgerFi, a Florida-based chain that serves burgers from grass-fed beef on tables made from recycled milk jugs, said his company would consider using cultured beef for a seasonal special if it tasted as good as BurgerFi’s current meat.“We do want to be a cutting-edge company in everything we do,” he said. But “right now for millennials, the tendency toward natural is ingrained.” Write to Jacob Bunge at jacob.bunge@wsj.com

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A smart self-installing car safety seat

4moms-carseat-safety-smart-app

Car safety seats are infamously tricky to install correctly, so the upcoming 4moms self-installing child seat is a welcome development. The smart seat installs itself, automatically adjusting levels and tensioning to fit perfectly with the car’s seat. It also connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth, enabling users to constantly monitor its status, reassuring parents that their kids are safe in the back.

The seat itself can accommodate children from 4-30 lb. It has an adjustable headrest, a retractable canopy and a five-point harness system. To begin, parents connect the seat base to their car’s latch anchors, which then adjust the level and tension. The system provides audio and visual cues to signify that the base is correctly fitted, and further signals every time they attach the seat. If anything goes wrong, such as a loss of tension, the seat provides warning signals and advises the parent on how to fix it. Notifications can also be accessed via the 4moms smartphone app, which provides monitoring through the smartphone’s internal accelerometer and gyroscope.

4moms-carseat-selfadjusting-app-monitor

The self-installing car seat is currently available for pre-order and will be available from June 2016. We recently saw the Mifold portable booster seat. How else could car seating be upgraded for additional comfort and safety?

Website: www.4moms.com
Contact: aley@4moms.com

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Material can store sunlight and release it later as heat

mit-energy-solar-heat

Solar power is the most successful example of sunlight being converted into useful energy and we have seen a number of projects using this technology on a small scale such as Repurpose school bags. Now, researchers at MIT have developed a new material that can store solar energy during the day to be released later as heat.

mit-polymer-1-heat-energy-solar

The material is a transparent polymer film, which can be applied to surfaces including clothing or windows. When the film is exposed to the sun it triggers a chemical reaction in the material and the chemical compounds are altered at the molecular level. This chemical state can remain indefinitely, meaning the energy is stored without diminishing, as heat otherwise would. The energy can then be activated as heat through a light, heat or electric trigger, which would cause the material to return to its initial molecular structure, releasing the stored energy.

The chemical reaction can release a temperature burst of up to 10 degrees. The research team envision the material being used to enable clothing to release heat at night, or melt away ice on a windscreen. What other applications are there for the material?

Website: www.news.mit.edu
Contact: acarleen@mit.edu

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Startups Bet That Lab-to-Table Will Be Next Food Trend

By Jacob Bunge Several startups are racing to be the first to fill U.S. consumers’ plates with laboratory-developed hamburgers and sausages that taste just as good as the kind from cattle and pigs.Memphis Meats Inc., a San Francisco company founded by three scientists, aims in three to four years to be the first to sell meat grown from animal cells in steel tanks. Rivals including Mosa Meat and Modern Meadow Inc. also aim to bring such “cultured meat” to market in the next several years.The competition highlights how these efforts have expanded since the 2013 taste test of a burger grown in a lab through a multiyear, $330,000 project funded by Google Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin and spearheaded by physiologist Mark Post . Reviews of the patty were mixed, but encouraged Mr. Post, who co-founded Netherlands-based Mosa Meat, to press on.The startups’ lofty goal is to remake modern animal agriculture, which the United Nations estimates consumes one-third of the world’s grains, with about a quarter of all land used for grazing. The companies say that growing meat with cells and bioreactors—similar to fermentors used to brew beer—consumes a fraction of the nutrients, creates far less waste and avoids the need for antibiotics and additives commonly used in meat production.“The meat industry knows their products aren’t sustainable,” said Memphis Meats Chief Executive Uma Valeti, a cardiologist and medical professor at the University of Minnesota. “We believe that in 20 years, a majority of meat sold in stores will be cultured.”The potential payoff could be enormous—American spent $186 billion on meat and poultry in 2014—and this month, Memphis Meats plans to announce its strategy and about $2 million in funding from venture-capital firms including SOSV LLC and New Crop Capital.Some in the meat industry are skeptical that consumers, many of whom are demanding “natural” or organic food made without additives or genetically modified ingredients, will embrace meat grown from animal cells. Representatives for major meat suppliers Tyson Foods Inc., Hormel Foods Corp. and Perdue Farms Inc. declined to comment, saying the technology was still too new.But enthusiasm for new technology to satisfy consumers’ hunger for meat is high among venture-capital firms and Silicon Valley investors. Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates and Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams have invested in plant-based protein companies Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods Inc.Memphis Meats grows meat by isolating cow and pig cells that have the capacity to renew themselves, and providing the cells with oxygen and nutrients such as sugars and minerals. These cells develop inside bioreactor tanks into skeletal muscle that can be harvested in between nine and 21 days, Mr. Valeti said.While the source cells can be collected from animals without slaughtering them, Memphis Meats and others have relied on fetal bovine serum, drawn from unborn calves’ blood, to help start the process. Mr. Valeti said Memphis Meats will be able to replace the serum with a plant-based alternative in the near future, and Mr. Post says he also expects to be able to eliminate its use. Without the serum, there will be no need for antibiotics, according to the researchers.Mosa Meat, which Mr. Post started with Maastricht University food technician Peter Verstrate, aims to sell cultured ground beef to high-end restaurants and specialty stores in four to five years, and is fielding interest from potential investors, Mr. Post said. Though the method’s efficiency and environmental aspects strike a chord with some consumers, “it will take time and early adopters” to catch on, he said.Modern Meadow is working on cultured leather, which could be for sale in two to three years, according to Sarah Sclarsic, business director for the Brooklyn, N.Y., company. Meat, she said, “is a longer-term mission for us.”The meat startups say their main challenge will be scaling up production while keeping costs low enough that cultured meat costs—and tastes—about the same as meat sliced from animals. Currently it costs about $18,000 to produce a pound of Memphis Meats’ ground beef, compared with about $4 a pound in U.S. grocery stores, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Eventually Memphis Meats and Mosa Meat aspire to sell more-complex products like steak, and make meat healthier by growing cells that contain less saturated fat.Memphis Meats officials say they have had discussions with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration on how their food will be regulated. The FDA would likely review the cultured meat before the USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service would begin regulating the product and how it is processed, a USDA spokesman said. Memphis Meats plans to eventually unveil its meat at restaurants and retailers, including several Memphis-area barbecue restaurants that are co-owned by William Clem, a tissue scientist who teamed up with Mr. Valeti and Nick Genovese, a stem cell biologist, to start the company.Mr. Clem said he has been pitching the cultured meat idea to regular guests of his chain, Baby Jack’s BBQ, some of whom are skeptical and others interested.“This is probably the toughest market you can imagine for something like this. It’s Memphis, Tenn., it’s all about tradition,” Mr. Clem said. “We’ve got a road map to start small and introduce it to people and get some feedback.” Memphis Meats has discussed its product with food service distributors U.S. Foods Inc. and Sysco Corp., he added. Steve Lieber, global brand head of BurgerFi, a Florida-based chain that serves burgers from grass-fed beef on tables made from recycled milk jugs, said his company would consider using cultured beef for a seasonal special if it tasted as good as BurgerFi’s current meat.“We do want to be a cutting-edge company in everything we do,” he said. But “right now for millennials, the tendency toward natural is ingrained.” Write to Jacob Bunge at jacob.bunge@wsj.com

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Shanghai Lures Tech Investors With Bailout Offers

BEIJING—Shanghai is rolling out a new initiative to get venture-capital firms to take more risks: offering to bail out some investors if certain bets on tech startups go sour.Starting next month, venture-capital firms that suffer financial losses from investments in Shanghai technology startups over the next two years can apply for compensation of 30%-60% of their losses, according to a notice issued by the Shanghai Science Technology Commission. The percentage of compensation will depend on the startup’s size and revenue and will be capped at three million yuan ($458,000) per project and six million yuan annually per investor. The commission has yet to release details of how losses will be calculated or which investors qualify.The notice was dated Dec. 29, 2015, though it appeared to have been posted online Jan. 21.While Shanghai is a financial hub, it has struggled to build a high-tech scene as vibrant as Beijing’s or Shenzhen’s. A freeze in public listings has also tempered investor appetite in China’s startups.The subsidies are aimed at spurring investment firms to take risks on more early-stage tech startups.“You can’t figure out the growth direction and possibility of future success for lots of technologies when they are at their early stage,” said Ma Xingfa, deputy director of the Shanghai technology commission, according to a transcript of a closed-door meeting with a few reporters from state media Tuesday that the commission provided to The Wall Street Journal.He said Shanghai wasn’t the first city to adopt this kind of subsidy, with previous tryouts seen in provinces including Guangdong and Jiangsu.China’s brand of capitalism often involves the state supporting strategic industries, subsidizing struggling companies and even bailing out losers.The Shanghai plan comes as the central government is striving to sustain investment in Chinese industry to prop up employment and retain a manufacturing edge. But China’s central government has also said addressing supply-side overcapacity is an economic priority this year.The regulation has sparked criticism from some who say taking the risk out of venture capital investing would distort the market.“The last thing the world needs are VCs who make bad decisions being bailed out,” said Gary E. Rieschel, managing partner of Qiming Venture Partners in Shanghai, in an email.Mr. Rieschel said the subsidy sums were probably too small to make much of a difference, but that investors shouldn’t be rewarded for making bad bets.Early-stage startup investors generally expect that many of their investments won’t pan out. About three-quarters of venture-capital-backed firms in the U.S. don’t return investors’ capital, according to a 2012 study by Harvard professor Shikhar Ghosh. Some investors in Shanghai said they expected market distortion to be limited, as experienced venture-capital firms are unlikely to pick investments based on the subsidies.“I don’t think this will change the general landscape. It may make some noise in the market, but the impact on business won’t be game changing,” said Ken Xu, partner of Shanghai-based Gobi Partners.Fu Weigang, a scholar with the think tank Shanghai Institute of Finance and Law, said it was doubtful that the plan would attract more startups to the city.“On the contrary, a market-oriented company would worry this kind of policy would hurt the local investing environment for fair competition,” he said.Mr. Ma said only investors on a list of 110 reputable venture-capital firms from the Shanghai Municipal Development and Reform Commission -- the local economic planner -- would qualify to receive subsidies, and they would still have to apply. The commission would also hire third-party auditors and legal consultants to help select the firms to receive compensation, he said.While the commission hasn’t yet defined what kind of financial losses would qualify, one government official said it would have to involve risk of bankruptcy or severe impairment of the venture-capital firm leading to withdrawal from the project.China’s sky-high valuations suggest no shortage of investor interest. Two of the world’s five most valuable startups are Chinese: $46 billion smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. and $18.3 billion Meituan-Dianping, an online seller of movie tickets and restaurant bookings.Fraser Howie, co-author of “Red Capitalism: The Fragile Financial Foundation of China’s Extraordinary Rise,” said he believed preferential tax policies and support for incubators would be more effective.

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Autonomous fireproof drone can reccy high-rise fires

faros-1-drone-firefighter-autonomous

High-rise fires pose particular risks for firefighters — accessibility is often limited meaning assessment is difficult, and the dense nature of urban spaces make them hard to contain. We have already seen a fleet of jetpacks attempt to tackle this problem. Now, researchers at Kaist in South Korea have developed fireproof drones, called FAROS, which could help do the job.

FAROS, short for fireproof aerial robot system, can detect fires, navigate the building and transfer vital images and data to firefighters remotely, providing them with potentially life-saving information before they enter the building. The drone can both fly and climb walls; it uses a 2D laser scanner to spot obstacles and autonomously alter its path or mode of movement accordingly. It also has a thermal-imaging camera and image-processing technology, so it can recognize people inside the building and potentially ascertain the point where the fire started. The drone is covered in aramid fibers, making it flame-retardant and capable of withstanding heat of up to 1000 degrees celsius for over a minute.

faros-drone-firefighter-autonomous

FAROS joins AirMule and Project Premonition as examples of drone technology being used in life-saving application. How else could the technology be used to make incredibly dangerous jobs safer?

Website: www.kaist.edu
Contact: http://ift.tt/23CGJFK

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Startup delivers birth control pills on-demand

CC Credit: Monik Markus

Back in 2012 a London-based service started delivering the morning after pill by courier. Now a new app in San Francisco is offering birth control medication delivery to Californians.

Nurx delivers contraceptive pills for free for women who have insurance — or USD 15 for those without it — and is also planning to offer Truvada, a drug treatment that has been used to prevent HIV transmission. The service’s bike couriers in the area can deliver the medication within two hours.

Nurx’s app uses simple health questions that are sent to a pharmacist, who is then able to send the prescription to customers. The pills are administered by professional physicians, and Nurx offers automatic refills to renew prescriptions.

In their own words, Nurx says the cost of a visit to doctors can be a major barrier to birth control. They say they want to improve access to healthcare, giving more women more control over their body.

What other types of medication could be made more accessible via an on-demand model?

Website: www.nurx.co
Contact: www.nurx.co/contact

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