February 27, 2024

Building a path forward for cellular agriculture: Q&A with Hamid Noori


  • Hamid Noori, CEO, The Cultivated B

Read commentary from Torys for the latest legal and industry trends in our article “Navigating change: advancements in ag-innovation and regulation”. And for more industry insights, read our in-depth Q&A featuring Bettina Hamelin, President and CEO, Ontario Genomics.

Cellular agriculture is considered a pioneering technology, which presents not only opportunities for resource security but a variety of uses beyond the food chain. What use cases are you most excited about?

I am mostly excited about its potential in developing personalized nutrition. It would ultimately allow us to design food of optimal nutritional value for individuals. It will transform food production at all levels, from at-home cooking to large-scale manufacturing. The way we nurture ourselves will be based not on habits, availability or on geographical proximity to resources but on exact physiological needs.

As both a founder and a mentor to the next generation of bioengineering founders, what are the key pieces of advice you have for those building companies in this space?

I personally follow some principles that I am happy to share. I genuinely believe that building something of substance takes time and there are no shortcuts. Rapid—and at the same time accurate—results are rare. One fails a lot more than they succeed and it is often hard to remain objective. For me, it matters far less whether I succeed or fail, what matters is integrity and authenticity. And this may indeed sound a bit like advice: work together rather than against each other.

What technology are you most excited about when it comes to moving the dial forward on cellular agriculture?

Fit-for-purpose bioreactor systems and molecular farming.

How can researchers, governments, not-for-profits, and companies work together to best advance the ecosystem?

Encouraging collaborative approaches and enabling each other would be a good starting point. I believe that we need a change in the mindset. There is currently a lot going on but there is also a certain protectionism surrounding it. This is not a field with networking effects. There is no "winner" and no "taking it all". We are talking about providing optimal nutrition and alternatives for vanishing resources for humanity. The market is huge, but so are the challenges and difficulties that lay ahead. If we distribute the labour, we may have a good chance to solve the problem together—and all of us can benefit.

How have you seen the industry change in recent years?

There has been great progress but also an unfortunate increase in inflated statements and results in the field of cultivated meat. Precision fermentation has managed to be more pragmatic and has delivered much more successfully.

The market is huge, but so are the challenges and difficulties that lay ahead. If we distribute the labour, we may have a good chance to solve the problem together—and all of us can benefit.

What are the biggest challenges facing the industry?

There are major technological and economic challenges. We have been working on solving economical scalability by developing better reactors, significantly reducing the cost of cell culture media and using plants as machines for smart ingredient production. There are also regulatory challenges that are not addressed in Canada. But in my humble opinion, disinformation in the public is a major challenge. There are simply wrong statements on the health aspects of products originating from cellular agriculture, or statements that cellular agriculture will make traditional farming and agriculture obsolete. The lack of appropriate and accurate information for the public will pose the biggest challenge for the field in the future, if not today. Consumers matter. Farmers matter. We cannot ignore them.

Are there any cellular agriculture developments in other countries that you would love to see take off here in Canada?

I think it would be great if Canada could take the developments in the US, particularly the recent approvals by the FDA and USDA, into consideration and as a possible regulatory framework path. The lack of regulatory clarity doesn’t do us any good. The authorities in the US and Israel have nicely demonstrated how we can have a path for novel foods from cellular agriculture while putting consumer safety and health as the highest priority.

What is your 10-year forecast for the industry?

I assume that we will see first a worsening before a steep success curve. Some companies that promised too much and didn’t deliver may suffer from the difficult financial/market situation and may not get further funding. But I believe that we are on the right track to solve some of the bigger problems in the next 2-3 years and once those problems are resolved, the field will flourish significantly.

Dr. Hamid Noori is an internationally active scholar, investor, and founder of a number of transatlantic bio- and medical technology companies and manufacturing facilities. He currently serves as the CEO of The Cultivated B, a multinational bioengineering company with a focus on cellular agriculture, bioreactor technologies and precision fermentation. Noori received numerous international academic awards and fellowships for his work on biological cybernetics, big data, and multiscale systems that were conducted at some of the world's leading research institutions, such as Princeton University, MIT, Max Planck Society, and IHES.

To discuss these issues, please contact the author(s).

This publication is a general discussion of certain legal and related developments and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require legal advice, we would be pleased to discuss the issues in this publication with you, in the context of your particular circumstances.

For permission to republish this or any other publication, contact Janelle Weed.

© 2024 by Torys LLP.

All rights reserved.

Subscribe and stay informed

Stay in the know. Get the latest commentary, updates and insights for business from Torys.

Subscribe Now