Meet the researcher: pioneering Israeli cultivated meat research — Dr. Iftach Nachman

Meet the researcher: pioneering Israeli cultivated meat research —
Dr. Iftach Nachman

A pioneering scientist in the Israeli cultivated meat space, Dr. Iftach Nachman reflects on how far the Israeli alt protein ecosystem has come and what matters for students and researchers interested in the field.

Name:  Dr. Iftach Nachman
Job title: Principal Investigator at the Faculty of Life Sciences and Co-Founder of Forsea Foods
Organization: Tel Aviv University
Alternative protein specialism: Cultivated Meat

Background and entry into the field

Dr. Iftach Nachman, a principal investigator at the Faculty of Life Sciences at Tel-Aviv University and a GFI grantee, is one of the pioneering scientists in the Israeli cultivated meat space. In his lab, he explores stem cell fate decisions within embryo-like models (small stem cell aggregates that recapitulate early embryogenesis events in vitro). Despite being a committed vegan for years since his exposure to animal experiments during his PhD days, he didn’t immediately link the research in his lab to cultivated meat.

Two of the co-founders of SuperMeat, among the earliest Israeli companies in cultivated meat, were once students in Dr. Nachman’s bioinformatics class. “Years ago, when they learned about my vegan lifestyle, they sought my advice,” he recalls. “Initially, I accompanied them through founding the Modern Agricultural Foundation and later advised them within SuperMeat. It was only a few years down the line that we realized how relevant my lab’s research could be to cultivated meat. Since that moment, we’ve been diving deeper into the field. We started by exploring a method for scalable, suspension-based 3D muscle differentiation of mouse pluripotent stem cells, then moved on to bovine stem cells, and now even fish cells. Soon, also pig and sheep stem cells.”

Landscape of alternative proteins in Israel

Dr. Nachman described the rapidly evolving alternative protein landscape. Reflecting on the substantial shift that has happened over the last decade, he noted, “There’s been a surge, especially here in Israel. What was once seen as a brand-new, risky, and bold concept has now evolved into an entire ecosystem with numerous companies.”

Significantly, Israel has seen the rise of a government-backed cultivated meat consortium, fostering collaboration among various companies and academic labs, including Dr. Nachman’s. “We’ve partnered with firms focusing on crucial supporting technologies for cost reduction, like growth factors and scaffolds. Despite the competitive nature of the field, the Israeli community collaborates and supports one another wherever possible.”

Advice for students and researchers

Dr. Nachman stressed the significance of gaining pertinent experimental experience for students aspiring to enter the field. “It’s not crucial to work directly on cultivated meat during your studies. What matters is gaining experience with stem cells, tissue culture, and related techniques.” Further, he urged undergraduate students to consider continuing their academic journey. “Progressing in studies unlocks doors to more compelling roles in the industry. Pursuing a master’s or PhD establishes a strong groundwork for securing research positions within these companies.”

Addressing established researchers, Dr. Nachman acknowledges the hurdles of transitioning into the field. “There’s often a reluctance among researchers, myself included at first, to openly embrace cultivated meat research. Some perceive it as less serious than fundamental science or even tissue engineering, but that’s a misconception. We’re actively addressing global challenges, although it might take time for this realization to sink in.”

Dr. Nachman emphasized the interdisciplinary nature crucial for the success of cultivated meat research. “I believe any biologist in nearly any field can find an interesting angle in this area because it’s so innovative and expansive. It encompasses tissue engineering, differentiation, the utilization of growth factors and signaling proteins, scaffolds, and more. There are numerous realms within tissue engineering, basic biochemistry, developmental biology, and other fields where individuals can contribute.”

He advised, “Connect with fellow researchers to identify areas where your expertise can make an impact. GFI plays a vital role here by highlighting major gaps in the current market. For example, their recent grant call focused on metabolomics, an area initially overlooked by many researchers in relation to alternative proteins. Similarly, there are still numerous unexplored opportunities waiting to be taken.”


Are you interested in getting involved in the science of plant-based food, cultivated meat, and fermentation? Take a look at our resources or check out our science page.

If you’re a researcher:

  • To find funding opportunities, check out our research funding database for grants from across the sector, and our research grants page showcases funding available from GFI.
  • Explore our Advancing Solutions initiative, which highlights key alternative protein knowledge gaps.
  • Use our academic research database and the collaborative researcher directory to find potential collaborators or mentors in the field. 
  • Find out about research projects that have already been funded on our research grants tracker or our grantee web pages.
  • Look out for monthly science seminars run through our GFIdeas community, or use our local and global company database to identify commercial partners.

If you’re a student:

  • Find educational courses around the globe through our database.
  • Sign up for our free online course introducing the science of alternative proteins, explore our resource guide explaining what is available to students or newcomers to the space.
  • Check out our careers board for the latest job opportunities in this emerging field.

Our news, events, and blog

GFI Israel Top 10 Moments of 2023

Encapsulating a year of significant achievements in the alternative proteins sector, this update details our key initiatives and collaborations in…

Photograph of Dr. Iftach Nachman

Meet the researcher: pioneering Israeli cultivated meat research — Dr. Iftach Nachman

A pioneering scientist in the Israeli cultivated meat space, Dr. Iftach Nachman reflects on how far the Israeli alt protein…

Author

Michelle Hauser

GFI Israel Science Consultant