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London Tech Week

From lab to the table: OpenAI CEO backs Uncommon’s $30M round to make cultivated pork mainstream

Uncommon founders
Picture credits: Uncommon

There are many problems associated with the meat industry, including environmental cost and shocking animal cruelty. Despite the awareness of these issues, reports show that very few consumers are prepared to change their diets long-term. This where plant-based meat products came as a saviour to many, encouraging them to eat less meat. 

However, the sale of the plant-based market has failed to win over consumers and dropped by 14% in 2022. Winning over this segment is cultivated meat and the industry is expected to reach $427 billion by 2040. Catching up on this segment, several startups are creating a diverse menu of products from burgers to steaks.

Setting a strong foot in this segment, Cambridge-headquartered Uncommon leverages cell technologies for the health of humanity with its cultivated pork. 

$30M Series A investment 

Now, Uncommon has gobbled $30 million in a Series A funding round. The investment round was led by Balderton Capital and Lowercarbon, with Red Alpine, East Alpha, and previous investors Sam Altman (OpenAI CEO) alongside his brother Max, Miray Zaki, and Sebastiano Castiglioni also participating.

The funding will be used to bring the cost of goods down, apply for regulatory approval,  and scale up production at its pilot manufacturing facility at Cambridge Technopark. Also, the company is in plans to double its team over the next 18 months to further expand its capabilities.

Benjamina Bollag, founder and CEO of Uncommon, stated: “As the only cultivated meat leveraging RNA technologies, we believe we have a competitive advantage that could help us become the largest protein company in the world. I’m delighted with the progress we’ve made so far as a company and look forward to working closely with our new and existing investors to continue to build on this progress and make a difference to global health.” 

Daniel Waterhouse, Partner at Balderton Capital, added: “The cultivated meat industry faces significant challenges, from the cost of materials to regulation and scaling. We’re convinced that Uncommon has the formula to become a global leader that will transform how we eat and enjoy meat. We’re excited to be backing Uncommon and look forward to working with Benjamina and the team as they embark on this next growth stage.”

Dr Clea Kolster, Partner at Lowercarbon, said: “Uncommon is on a mission to build a healthier future by leveraging RNA technologies to create cultivated pork belly and bacon, which could produce up to 52% fewer carbon emissions per pound than traditional pork. We need more founders with the vision and drive of Benjamina if we are to transform the way we eat and reduce the environmental impact of the meat industry for good.” 

Leverages RNA technology 

Reportedly, over a third of the world’s total antibiotics are used solely on pigs in China, and the same kills more people than cancer by 2050, cultivated meat offers a sustainable solution. Through its delicious and health-focused products, Uncommon aims to own 5% of the global pork market by 2035. 

Founded in 2017 by Bollag and Dr. Ruth Faram as Higher Steaks, Uncommon leverages RNA, the molecule that contains the chemical instructions that direct cells’ natural machinery into making a protein, to create delicious cultivated bacon and pork belly from animal cells. 

By following a unique approach, the company can quickly reach price parity with conventional meat, scale faster and create safer, healthier products without the use of gene editing, opening up a much wider global market than its competitors. 

This technology does away with the need for antibiotics, animal products or toxic small molecules and drastically reduces the raw materials needed for alternative protein production. 

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