A Cork-born synthetic biology start-up called Perfect Day Foods has made agritech history by producing the first ever animal-free dairy ice cream, without requiring any animals.

The company, which was born in Cork as part of the SOSV-backed RebelBio accelerator is now based in Berkeley, California. It was originally called Muufri and was founded when Perumal Gandhi and Ryan Pandya applied to take part in the RebelBio life sciences accelerator in Cork in 2014.

Earlier this year Perfect Day Foods raised $34.7m in a major funding round, bringing to $74.7m the total amount of funding the company attracted since starting up.

Perfect Day Foods uses cellular agriculture to produce animal-free dairy proteins, SOSV explained in a Medium blog post.

The animal-free future of food

By designing yeast to produce the same dairy proteins found in milk from a cow, Perfect Day can make the same milk without the cow.

Last week the company launched the first-ever animal-free dairy ice cream without requiring any animals and the limited-release product was sold out within hours.

To make their animal-free ice cream, Perfect Day grew dairy whey protein directly from yeast cells and combined the dairy protein with plant-based fats and sugars.

It is understood that by producing dairy proteins directly from cells, Perfect Day provides a more sustainable and less resource-intensive way to produce the same dairy proteins.

Bowl of ice cream.

A world first: ice cream made without the cow. Image: Perfect Day Foods

Ultimately, Pandya and Gandhi also aim to reduce the number of animals involved in agriculture and food production.”

A key hurdle Perfect Day will need to overcome will be scalability of production to bring down the currently hefty price tag. The first batch cost $60 for three pints of the frozen dessert.

Late last year Perfect Day took steps to get closer to scaling production by announcing a partnership with food company Archer Daniels Midland, which has considerable expertise in scaling fermentation production.

The RebelBio accelerator is one of a number of accelerators run by SOSV, the venture capital firm started by New York native Sean O’Sullivan, including IndieBio in San Francisco and New York, HAX in Shenzhen and San Francisco, Chinaccelerator in Shanghai, MOX in Taipei and Food-X in New York. SOS established the IndieBio accelerator in 2014, becoming one of the earliest venture capital firms to focus on the disruptive field of synbio.

O’Sullivan, whose first company MapInfo grew to become a $200m public company, is a noted tech investor who co-coined the term “cloud computing” and has made successful investments in companies like Netflix and Harmonix, creator of Guitar Hero.

SOSV was formed in 1995 and today has $300m in assets under management and a large network of venture capital firms make follow-on investments of an additional $200m in SOSV start-ups every year.

Another graduate company from RebelBio in Cork, Hyasynth Bio, which genetically engineers yeast to create a range of cannabinoids for therapeutic purposes, last year raised $10m in investment.

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 13 August 2019

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