Singapore to develop seafood products using world’s first unagi cell lines

Consumers can expect to enjoy lab-grown unagi and other fishes as early as 2024

Researchers at Nanyang Polytechnic’s (NYP) School of Applied Science (SAS) in Singapore have developed proprietary cell lines for high value fish species that cannot be farmed. These cell lines are the first in the world to grow on an ethically viable plant-based alternative to the more commonly used foetal bovine serum.

The development of the fish cell lines was led by Mark Richards, NYP’s Lead Specialist in Aquaculture Technology, with funding support from the Singapore Food Story R&D Grant managed by Singapore Food Agency and A*STAR. To address ethical concerns raised on the usage of foetal bovine serum for cell lines, the NYP team used an alternative serum extracted from a plant source. With significant cost savings from using the plant-based serum, fish cells can now be grown in a more sustainable manner, and at a larger scale.

NYP has licensed three of the in-house developed proprietary cell lines to Umami Meats, a Singapore-based food tech startup developing sustainable seafood, for retail. They include the Japanese eel/unagi (Anguilla japonica), humpback grouper (Cromileptes altivelis), and orange-spotted grouper (Epinephelus coioides). It is expected that seafood products developed using these cell lines will be available as early as 2024.

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