Triple-Threat Start-up Technology to shake up both Food and Biomedical industries
On 1st January 2016, the United Nations ushered in the new year with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to eliminate poverty over the next 15 years.1 Since then organizations have been aligning their agendas in effort to achieve these goals globally by 2030. With sustainability at the forefront of it all, it is no doubt emergence of innovative methods of food production will have its part in the reach for these goals.
Establishing its business model as a business enabler, KosmodeHealth is working to address the cost and sustainability challenges of current food and biomedical industries. Their vision to provide companies and institutions from these industries with the right tools for more sustainable and lower cost technologies in plant extraction and 3D bioprinting of scaffolds for 3D cell cultures using their proprietary Plant Protein Composite (PPC TM) bio-ink and printing methodology.
KosmodeHealth Singapore is a start-up from the National University Singapore (NUS) Department of Food Science and Technology. Helmed by Dr. Huang Dejian, a Chemist and Food Scientist and Ms Florence Leong, a former pharmaceutical executive turned BioTech/ MedTech start-up advisor, instructor and angel investor. The duo bringing to the table their decades of experience in both science and commercial business aims to facilitate companies and institutions in the food and biomedical industries with sustainable and efficient methods for plant protein extraction and 3D cell culture.
Two Industries Four Issues Three Technologies
With their goal of expanding access to health from nature, KosmodeHealth is looking to address four issues from two different industries using their proprietary triple technology platform. The technology stems from Dr Huang's research originating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and further augmented by more than 14 years of research at NUS.
Food Industry – Plant Extraction Technology
The first is the food industry, at present, the high cost of manufacturing plant-based foods has become a barrier for market access to consumers. Many who are unwilling to bear the high price tag would be deterred from such plant-based foods and lose out on its health benefits.
“Plant-based extract food are usually very expensive and are beyond the reach of the masses. The main cause for this is the current way in which plant extractions are done through column chromatography.” Explains Ms Florence Leong, Co-Founder, Kosmodehealth. To address this issue, KosmodeHealth’s proprietary plant extraction technology is its core technology which has been validated at one tonne extraction scale to yield plant extracts of higher purity at a fraction of the cost of current extraction methods.
This novel method of plant extraction also provides a sustainable way of achieving a circular economy in food production by applying it to upcycle food waste and reducing waste streams. “Another area we are addressing is food wastage, I’m not talking about food consumption wastage, but food processing companies being responsible for generating hundreds to thousand tonnes of food waste.” Shares Ms Florence Leong.
In a report by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in 2011, globally, one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. This amounts to almost 1.3 billion tonnes per year,2 the alarming figure can have tremendous impact on the economy, climate, and reducing hunger in the world as outlined in the UN’s SDG.
Extracting plant proteins, insoluble and soluble fibres, the KosmodeHealth extraction method value-adds to food processing side-streams to be used as ingredients for functional foods, and other industrial uses. Some examples of side-streams that it has worked on include spent corn, canola oil seed meal, and mangosteen peel. The extracted plant protein and fibre can then be reclaimed to fortify foods and create functional foods.
The next two technologies by KosmodeHealth will add on to its method of extracting and purifying plant proteins.
Biomedical Industry – Development of PPCTM bio-ink for 3D bioprinting
The use of plant-derived biomaterials has been shown to have great application potential in the biomedical field. Ongoing research of its uses in 3D bioprinting of viable tissues, biological materials, and cell culture has demonstrated that these plant extracts have a wide range of capabilities.
Based on research conducted by Dr. Huang, KosmodeHealth has developed its second proprietary technology – formulation of PPCTM bio-ink. Together with his research team, Dr. Huang discovered the blending of poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) and a prolamin protein known as zein produced a composite bio-ink that can increase cell affinity and biodegradability.3
Zein, a corn seed storage prolamin, is found to be a reliable biopolymer for biomedical applications due to its amphiphilic, and innocuous properties as well as its promising biodegradability and biocompatibility. The final composite bio-ink will then act as the “printer ink” for creating the bio-scaffold.
Biomedical Industry – 3D printing methodology of bio-scaffold
Finally, KosmodeHealth has developed a 3D bio-scaffold printing methodology using electrohydrodynamic jetting (EHDJ) for bio-printing of 3D cell cultures. Their method amalgamates two types of fibre structures – coiled and linear – to produce a 3D bio-scaffold of minimal porosity. In the study by Dr. Huang proved that this hybrid structure was able to provide better cell attachment and proliferation for 3D cell cultures.4
Using PPC TM bio-ink, the bio-scaffolds are printed to match as close as possible the extracellular matrix and microenvironment to provide conducive conditions for cell proliferation, differentiation, and migration. On top of that, the methodology developed by KosmodeHealth aims to be customizable to allow for more precise and controllable 3D bio-scaffold printing.
United Nations News Centre, (Dec 30, 2015), Sustainable Development Goals. Retrieved from: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2015/12/sustainable-development-goals-kick-off-with-start-of-new-year/
FAO: Global Food Losses and Food Waste: Extent, Causes and Prevention. 2011, Rome: FAO
Jing, L., Wang, X., Liu, H., Lu, Y., Bian, J., Sun, J., & Huang, D. (2018). Zein Increases the Cytoaffinity and Biodegradability of Scaffolds 3D-Printed with Zein and Poly(ε-caprolactone) Composite Ink. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 10(22), 18551–18559. doi: 10.1021/acsami.8b04344
Wang, D., Jing, L., Liu, H., Huang, D., & Sun, J. (2019). Microscale scaffolds with diverse morphology via electrohydrodynamic jetting for in vitro cell culture application. Biomedical Physics & Engineering Express, 5(2), 025011. doi: 10.1088/2057-1976/aafb98
About the Founders
Dr. Huang Dejian, Co-Founder, KosmodeHealth. Dr. Huang is an Associate Professor from the Department of Chemistry, Food Science Technology Program. He is a chemist and a Food Scientist and has been recognised by Thomson Reuters as a highly cited researcher in Agricultural Sciences in 2014/2015.
Florence Leong, Co-Founder, KosmodeHealth. Florence Leong is an ex-pharmaceutical executive turned bio/medtech start up advisor, instructor and angel investor, with decades of commercial experience in driving large pharmaceuticals and venture capital management.