Appleton Woods recently partnered with Multus to supply their Advanced Serum Free media range to the UK Market. Multus is made up of a team of scientists and engineers addressing the ethical and performance challenges of traditional growth media. Multus is at the forefront of the sustainable protein transition, pioneering the design and production of key ingredients.
Their serum free media is now available to the Life Sciences sector for researchers looking to move away from conventional fetal bovine serum (FBS) for cell growth to a product that is serum free and more sustainable. Multus also produces recombinant human Vitronectin which can be used as an extracellular matrix (ECM) to promote cell proliferation and supports normal colony morphology for different cell types. Our team had the chance to explore their London based facilities and chat with co-founder and CEO, Cai Linton, to learn more about these products.
What inspired you to create this company?
Cai: We started Multus in 2019 and we were very inspired, at the time, by the protests that were happening around London about climate change. We saw very clearly that there needed to be a technical solution to mitigate climate change. We saw the opportunity presented by new technology in the cultivated meats industry and realised this could change the way that we produce meat – in a more sustainable way that’s better for the planet, humans, and animals.
The tools we use to grow cells today are quite old; we’ve been using the same FBS and DMEM since the 1950s! The tools we can use now to manipulate biology are getting to a point where we can engineer solutions with precise control. However, the barrier between engineering biology and its potential to impact the world, is in the cost of growing cells. There is a clear gap in the market as serum free media today tends to be very expensive. Multus aims to make sustainable FBS alternatives more accessible to accelerate impactful research in cell biology.
What was your academic background prior to starting the company?
Cai: I studied Molecular Bioengineering at Imperial College London. I was using principles in engineering and data science to investigate and direct biology in ways that had not been done before, in order to create real-life solutions. Kevin Pan, our Chief Technology Officer, comes from a data science background. He was able to apply that to the complexity of biology at Imperial and found his niche within systems biology and control. And Reka Tron, our Chief Operating Officer, has a technical background in synthetic biology and regenerative medicine at Imperial. As, co-founders, we are very much aligned in the opportunity to engineer biology as a means to create real-life solutions and scientific discovery.
What motivated you to create the Proliferum LSR and Vitronectin?
Cai: Our team recognised that although FBS is used almost universally to grow cells due to its rich source of nutrients, it is derived and manufactured in a way that is pretty horrific from an ethical perspective.
There are also scale, sustainability, cost, and batch variability challenges with FBS that have created an opportunity for Multus to develop new formulation that could perform just as well as FBS. Proliferum LSR is consistent from batch-to-batch and has a greater potential for scale. It is also greatly more sustainable.
With Vitronectin, this is a component that supports cell attachment and proliferation that is critical for adherent cell culture. We wanted to design a more accessible, in terms of cost, animal free surface coating to boost cell adhesion and proliferation.
What are some of the advantages to our customers in choosing Proliferum LSR over other traditional media like FBS?
Cai: Proliferum LSR is serum free, so there is no FBS involved. This makes it much more consistent from batch-to-batch, both in performance and in price, and provides greater reproducibility and control to researchers in the life sciences field. There are also some advantages over specialty FBS where ours being serum free doesn’t have some of the components that make FBS difficult to use.
Speciality FBS can get very, very expensive so we can help companies get over those challenges.
The other advantage is from an ethical and sustainability perspective. In removing serum from the product, we can source raw materials from more ethical suppliers.
Are there any other sustainable product features?
Cai: Proliferum LSR being serum free means that we can use components and ingredients that are from more sustainable manufacturing processes than FBS which is a byproduct of the meat industry that’s very polluting. With the Vitronectin, we use optimised recombinant protein technology, to produce this product consistently without animal/human components. Also, as we are a UK based company, our shipping has a low carbon footprint to UK customers.
How have end users found it working with these products?
Cai: We work a lot with cultivated meat companies and usually it’s their first time trying to move away from FBS. There is a big drive from a cost and regulatory perspective to move towards high performance serum-free growth media. The combination of Proliferum LSR and Vitronectin works well; we’ve been able to help companies grow their cells without FBS for the first time and achieve consistent, reproducible results.
A lot of the time you’ll see increased performance, so cells are growing quicker and are fully functional. We found that companies can also cryopreserve and thaw their cells with our serum-free media, which is not the case for a lot of other serum-free media.
Enabling customers to be completely non-reliant on serum in the research and development is something that we have unlocked for these customers. That’s quite nice to see and shows us the power of our approach to serum-free growth media formulation design.
How else can Multus aid the customer experiences?
Cai: We are quite flexible in our manufacturing, so if there is a need for rapid prototyping, we can create small batches of custom media. We can also develop custom media for specific cells or functionalities with MediOP-our ultra-high-throughput growth media optimisation platform.
What cell culture applications for Proliferum LSR and Vitronectin are common for end users?
Cai: Proliferum LSR is compatible with primary and immortalised cell culture. They can be used in adherent cell culture as well as suspension culture. Proliferum LSR can be used for cell isolation, cryopreservation and recovery. Proliferum LSR is shown to maintain cell proliferation and functionality. Although the morphology of some cells may be slightly different with FBS, the functionality remains the same.
In terms of vitronectin, this boosts adherent cell attachment and proliferation. We have also supported some companies that are looking at how they can use our vitronectin to coat different 3D scaffolding materials-to add functional properties to the materials that they’re growing cells on.
What cell lines are these products most compatible with?
Cai: Proliferum LSR works with a variety of cells that we have tested such as fibroblasts, myoblasts, adipocytes, epithelial cells, and some cancer cell lines like K562. It is suitable for primary and immortalised cells.
Vitronectin is the coating of choice for induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) as it does not induce differentiation. It also has a strong performance on myoblasts, fibroblasts and can be used on non-TC treated plates.
Are there any other products Multus are looking to create in the future?
Cai: We are increasing and continuing our research into advanced serum free growth formulations all the time. We are looking at serum-free formulations for more specific user-cases, including formulations to support niche cell types and functional behaviours.
Also in the future, we are looking at developing other input ingredients. So, growth factors, for example, are a big focus of ours. And we are looking to increase access to affordable growth factors in the future.
Where do you see both yourself and the company in the next few years?
Cai: At Multus, we build tools for researchers and companies to enable better and more impactful research and support the translation of research into the real world. I want to get to a point where our serum free growth media and growth media ingredients are used universally, displacing FBS. Our R&D team is focused on delivering new products that are consistently sustainable, accessible, and affordable.