Led by ZhenFund, a close partner of Sequoia Capital China, Chinese cellular agriculture startup CellX just closed its second funding round of $4.3 million. The fundraising came half a year after the Shanghai-based cultivated meat startup’s initial pre-seed round in late 2020. Other investors participating include Sky9 capital, K2VC, Lever VC, Better Bite Ventures, and others.
CellX aspires to bring cultivated meat products to consumers in China and around the world. With over half of global pork supply consumed in China, and as Chinese government commit to cut carbon agressively in the next few decades, cultivated meat is considered a solution for China’s pork crisis and food security issue. It can significantly contribute to low carbon transition of the country in the long term as well as the nascent industry get to scale.
The company’s 25 scientists and impact entrepreneurs works out of its headquarter in Shanghai Zhangjiang, a leading biotech hub in China. The company has developed multiple prototypes, including structured products with scaffolding and 3D bioprinting technologies.
CellX is led by four cofounders with diverse backgrounds across the field of business and scientific research. CEO Ziliang is a former consultant from Boston Consulting Group with experience advising top executives from Fortune 500 companies. Scientific lead Dr. Ning Xiang was a postdoc fellow in David Kaplan's lab at Tufts University, researching tissue engineering for cultivated meat. She received her PhD from Purdue University and has more than ten years of experience in food science. Dr. Binlu Huang is also a scientific lead who received her Ph.D. from Tsinghua University and was a postdoc fellow at the University of Basel and Chinese Academy of Sciences. Before joining CellX, Dr. Huang worked in the CAR-T industry in China. Cofounder Ran Liu received his MBA from Stanford University and is a serial entrepreneur in deep tech.
As the only team from China, CellX was selected as a semifinalist in XPRIZE Feed the Next Billion Competition. The $15 million competition, launched in December 2020, is aimed at reinventing how humanity will feed future generations.
Cultivated Meat in China
In May 2020, during China’s annual Two Sessions, cultivated meat was discussed as a major solution to make China’s food supply more sustainable and crisis-resilient. Cellular agriculture is well positioned to help China solve its food security issues and achieve carbon neutrality.
China is the world's largest meat market. Worldwide meat consumption is projected to grow by 88% from 2010 to 2050 (WRI). As wealth accumulates, the demand for animal protein in China increased from 2000 to 2019 by 32% per capita. More than 50% of global pork is consumed by the Chinese, and with insufficient and volatile domestic supply, 6.4 billion dollars worth of imported pork was sold in 2019 in China (USDA). The demand for animal protein in China is bound to increase with the addition of around 120 million middle class households in the next decade (USDA), but domestic resources in animal feed, arable land and freshwater supply cannot suffice such demand. Cultivated meat provides a promising solution to reduce the need for animal protein from factory farming, and a stable supply of high quality protein from local sources can relieve China's reliance on meat importation.
Although China has been the world's largest meat market, cellular agriculture in the country is still an emerging field. Given food security concerns, complexity in the regulatory approval process, better access to local consumer tastes and dietary patterns, Chinese cultivated meat companies are considered to have advantages over its global peers in the local market. As of today, CellX is one of the only three cultivated meat companies in China. As a pioneer in the field, CellX is rapidly expanding and hiring top-notch scientists and form partnership with institutions globally.