The cellular agriculture spin-off Onego Bio Ltd has been seeded with €10m to use its Trichoderma platform to establish an animal-free egg protein production.
Venture capital investors Agronomics Limited and Maki VC led the seed financing that is set to solve one of the most presssing environmental problems as egg protein is one of the world’s most used animal proteins. Onego Bio’s platform technology, that was developed at VTT, allows the vegan production of bioalbumen by the means of cellular agriculture. Bioalbumen is an animal-free egg protein, produced with a specific precision fermentation process that creates nature-identical egg white protein without the need for animals.
Driven from the vegan trend, the demand for animal-free egg white protein is predicted to grow globally, because intensive animal farming causes many environmental hazards, such as excessive use of land, greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity, and the risk of global pandemics.
“We want to thank VTT and our investors for supporting a technology that is part of a bigger wave of changing people’s perspective on alternative ways of producing food. The time is right to spin out this technology and start manufacturing our product, as consumers are more open to try products that are not animal-derived,” says Maija Itkonen, CEO of Onego Bio Ltd.
Global egg production has almost doubled its volumes during the past 20 years and is forecasted to reach 138 million tonnes by 2030. At VTT, the team has developed a safe, sustainable and cost-effective cellular agriculture method for producing ovalbumin, the most abundant egg white protein. This biotech process, based on harnessing the microflora Trichoderma reesei for protein production, with the help of water, a carbon source and certain minerals, can provide significant environmental improvements to the egg white production. The team believes the chosen technology is superior because of its efficiency and productivity.
Cellular agriculture uses microorganisms and bioreactors instead of traditional animal farming. Onego Bio Ltd will focus on building a pilot production in Finland during the coming years and acquiring the necessary commercial approvals for its first product, animal-free bioalbumen powder. The product will be first marketed in the United States, where the regulatory landscape allows for faster market entry.
Onego Bio Ltd is planning to market the product as a food ingredient for the bakery and confectionary industry, as well as a protein supplement for fitness products, and later enter the consumer market with its own branded products for baking and cooking.
“We have a big mission: We want to rethink eggs and give people access to a delicious healthy animal-free alternative. Egg white is a smart starting point for the next level proteins. Because of its unique functional properties like gelling, foaming, binding and emulsifying, the egg white is extremely difficult to replace with alternative ingredients. In many applications, egg is the last frontier before entirely animal-free end products can be manufactured”, says Itkonen.
It is forecasted that food production based on cellular agriculture will lead to a disruptive change in the entire food system. The technology would not just have a positive impact on environmental issues but also reduce exposure to antibiotics that are broadly used in animal farming and contribute to global health by preventing infectious diseases, such as bird flu, from transferring to humans.
The project has been part of VTT LaunchPad, a science-based spin-off incubator, where VTT researchers and technology are brought together with the best business minds and investors out there to renew industries. VTT LaunchPad supports incubator teams to develop VTT owned IPR into fundable spin-off companies.