Breakout Labs, Peter Thiel’s effort to put $5 million toward cutting-edge research, just awarded another round of funding toward technologies that could one day create meat without harm to animals and improve disease diagnosis.
The fund usually awards $50,000 to $350,000 and lets grantees keep their intellectual property rights in exchange for a small royalty (capped at three times the grant amount) and an investment option. It’s still early days, so the initial projects that were funded a few months ago have yet to raise significant follow-on funding.
“This is unlike a traditional venture capital fund,” said executive director Lindy Fishburne. “It’s an open application process and there’s no backdoor channel.” Breakout Labs is part of Thiel’s push to go for genuine technological breakthroughs instead of the low-hanging fruit in the consumer web space that many other investors seem to be attracted to. His other firm, Founders Fund, also has the same ideological bent but supports startups, not just early-stage research.
Breakout’s new projects include a company called Modern Meadow that uses tissue engineering to create leather and food without the need to raise or transport animals.
“It’s not a genetically engineered product,” Fishburne says. “It’s a tissue engineered product that’s based on actual stem cells that come from a cow, for example.”
They’re working on an edible cured meat prototype, that could become a source of animal protein.
She adds, “It tastes like actual meat. They just grow it a dish instead of in a cow. The technology all comes from the fact that we know a lot more about how tissues and organs develop. We can understand how to make cells grow into particular structures that we haven’t seen before.”
Another company, Bell Biosystems, is working on regenerative medicine, stem cell and cell-based therapeutics. A third grantee, Entopsis is developing a nano-engineered platform that makes it easier to diagnose multiple diseases from a single sample.