Written by Heart Beat staff
From luxury leather goods to food for the masses
COLUMBIA, Mo 6/24/14 (Beat Byte) -- Asia's richest person is plowing $10 million into Modern Meadow, a company started at Mizzou in 2011 that "bio-fabricates" products such as beef and leather from cattle.
Billionaire investor and business owner Li Ka-Shing announced his venture capital firm, Horizon Ventures, would provide Modern Meadow its largest investment to date. University of Missouri biological physics professor Gabor Forgacs and son Andras started the company with $250,000 in USDA and National Science Foundation grants. Sequoia Capital joined Paypal founder Peter Thiel and other venture firms to provide an additional $3 million in seed funding.
Since relocated to Brooklyn, NY, Modern Meadow is partly based on a technology Gabor Forgacs pioneered: so-called "bioprinting," use of 3D printers to make living organs and tissues. Better known for making three-dimensional plastic models, 3D printing technology could someday produce human organs for transplant, researchers claim.
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Modern Meadow's use of the technology may yield a cornucopia of benefits, from reduced reliance on traditional agricultural methods out of reach to many poor countries, to greenhouse gas reduction. The Journal of Animal Science has reported producing just one pound of beef takes 1,036 BTUS of fossil fuel energy.
The promise of a "modern meadow" -- a way to grow cattle products without acres of grazing cows -- has propelled the one-time Mizzou startup to the top of a growing lineup of high-tech agriculture innovations that promise lower costs and greater yields. The company made investor headlines in 2012 when Thiel's biotech foundation, Breakout Labs, pumped in $350,000.
Since then, magazines such as Popular Science, Inc., Scientific American, Time, and Wired have been asking if the firm could "save the world." Bio-printing is years -- perhaps decades -- from such an impact, but Li Ka-Shing's investment suggests the father and son Forgac team is onto something, while giving a major "thumbs up" to entrepreneurialism in Columbia.