Wanda Fish is on track to make a splash in seafood grown in research collaboration with Tufts University

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March 23, 2022 — Cultured seafood startup Wanda Fish Technologies has signed two agreements with Tufts University, USA, to advance its path to fully developed cultured fish on par with their counterparts with fins.

The first grants Wanda Fish exclusive rights to certain intellectual properties in fish cell culture developed by Tufts researcher David Kaplan. The second is a company-sponsored two-year research agreement to develop a roadmap to the final developed product.

FoodIngredientsFirst speaks with Daphna Heffetz, co-founder and CEO of Wanda Fish, who predicts the investment in research will significantly propel the startup into producing sustainable, great-tasting cultured fish fillets.

“I think it will take much less time today to reach cost parity because of the accumulation of a lot of know-how over the past few years,” she says.

“Additionally, marine cell cultures may be more tolerant of temperature, pH, and oxygen than mammalian cell cultures.”

Daphna Heffetz, co-founder and CEO of Wanda Fish, with cell culture expert Professor David Kaplan of Tufts.Reach out to academia
To advance these goals, Heffetz sought an academic group with expertise in cultured fish to propel and enhance our R&D path.

“Our research revealed that Kaplan and his team have extraordinary know-how and long experience across the entire platform required to produce premium fish fillets.

She notes that Kaplan, who is also a professor and chair of the biomedical engineering department at Tufts, received a $10 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to establish the first national center in the United States dedicated to research in cellular agriculture.

Heffetz herself brings over 20 years of experience building and growing biotech companies.

get out of the ocean
Using R&D facilities in the United States and Israel, Wanda Fish is building a proprietary non-GMO platform to produce cell-based finless fish fillets from different species without burdening the ocean.

“We start with a single, unique sample of real native fish muscle and fat tissue,” Kaplan explains. “We then continue to replicate the biological growth of the fish, with nutritional attributes including protein and omega 3 content, as well as taste and textural properties.

The results are clean, safe fish free of microplastics, mercury, or other chemical toxicities commonly found in some wild catches.

Heffetz reveals that the team has already made progress in developing its first fish fillet prototype directly from fish cells.

The team is currently breeding a few types of fish species. The next two months will determine which will be the company’s first product.

Wanda Fish will integrate proprietary applications from multiple disciplines, including cell culture, biotechnology, food technology and culinary design, to realize its products.

Around 20% of the protein currently consumed by the world’s population comes from the ocean.reach the price
Ultimately, the company aims to produce “a versatile range of fish species to satisfy all preferences at affordable prices with uncompromising quality,” says Heffetz.

Some of the major factors influencing the cost of production are the cost of serum-free culture medium and the fish cell doubling time (i.e. the rate of cell proliferation), she explains.

The cell density in the bioreactors and the required level of bioreactor monitoring and optimization also play a role.

“Our platform includes animal-free culture medium, expertise in native muscle and fat tissue production, and specially customized bioreactors.”

These tools will give it the ability to grow and eventually bring its farmed fish products to cost parity with their conventionally fished counterparts, Heffetz points out.

Seeking to solve a global crisis
About 20% of the protein currently consumed by the world’s population comes from the ocean, the company notes.

As a very satiating and nutritionally dense food source, the appetite for seafood, and especially fish, is only likely to continue to grow.

This puts increasing pressure on the existing seafood industry to keep pace, not to mention the already overstretched waterways.

“More than three billion people depend on the ocean and its environment to live,” Heffetz points out.

“Marine biodiversity is essential to the survival of people and our planet. Overfishing, along with water pollution, damages the vast and vital ocean ecosystem. Many wild fish populations are unfortunately in decline.

Wanda Fish was created last year with financial and technical support from the Israel Innovation Authority (IIA) and in collaboration with The Kitchen FoodTech Hub.

Wanda Fish secured US$3 million in its pre-seed funding round led by Strauss Group, The Kitchen FoodTech Hub. He has also secured investments from Peregrine Ventures, Pico Partners, CPT Capital and MOREVC.

By Missy Green

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