CAS, the Cellular Agriculture Society, is an international 501c3 nonprofit based in the United States set out to address the global problems caused by intensive animal agriculture, or factory farming. To do this, they’re advancing a subset of biotechnology called “cellular agriculture”, a new field which aims to solve intensive animal farming by removing the animal itself. CAS predicts in the future “Cell-ag will produce real animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs from cells instead of livestock”. They point to the health, ethical, and environmental issues of intensive animal farming, encompassed in their slogan, “For the people, for the animals, for the world”, claiming these same products should be made from cells rather than farmed animals.
In recent years, cellular agriculture has caught the attention of some high-profile backers like Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, and Richard Branson, as well as leaders in the traditional agriculture sector like Tyson, Cargill, and ADM, all of whom, CAS claims, “are investing in a future where the same animal-based commodities people love today like meat, dairy, leather and fur will be made without animals”. CAS, as an independent public charity, has worked on projects ranging from social science and policy, to helping create the first course on cell-based meat at Stanford University. In 2019, they began to strongly emphasize design & video production, believing “this focus will help to create a vision for a world where animal products will soon not come from animals”. CAS is likely best known for their work designing the first cell-based meat facility of the future, as well as the first textbook on cellular agriculture.
The leadership structure of their nonprofit is as unorthodox as the concept they represent. Founder & Creative Director, Kris Gasteratos, works with world-class partners of CAS like Monopo and Miami-based, Luminary Visuals, where CAS is also headquartered. This structure, their founder claims, “is the best way to create top-tier visual productions for the field of cellular agriculture”. Their advisory board includes members like Deepika Phakke, former Chief of Staff at Google, and Dr. George Church of Harvard Medical School, as well as a dozen more advisers from Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and MIT, many of whom Gasteratos met while building CAS as a student at Harvard. More information on their team can be found here: Team
Kris has been vocal about his dismay with the serious ramifications of factory farming, and has made bold predictions of its “complete collapse” within the next few decades. The impetus for his work and creating CAS began when Kris, growing up in Florida, discovered the diverse problems of animal farming at 18 years old; he, shortly after, realized cellular agriculture proposed a unique solution to the many problems brought on by intensive livestock farming. As a student at Florida Atlantic University, he started out as a researcher in a bioengineering lab, as well as a part-time instructor and tutor in biology, calculus, and chemistry, but quickly began to dedicate the majority of his time to the concept of cell-ag. From the beginning, Kris was interested in addressing what he refers to as “the neglected areas of cell-ag”, filling the gaps in the field that would ultimately allow the concept to revolutionize the world; this would later, by extension, become much of the work CAS does. At age 19, Kris began his first major project seeking to complete the first market research on cellular agriculture. Gasteratos explains, “While there were minimal efforts in cellular agriculture at the time with only a few dozen people in the world working on the concept, the majority of that work was dedicated to the natural science challenge. However, it seemed that social science, or discovering the eventual market for products like cell-based meat would be salient as well, compounded by the lack of interest towards this topic at the time.” In 2015, Gasteratos completed the first global market research of cell-based meat which culminated in a study that helped bring cell-ag into the forefront of ag-biotech, attracting millions of investment to the first startups in the field. He also began development on a comprehensive list of potential benefits cellular agriculture could bring about. This would later be published as 90 Reasons to Consider Cellular Agriculture, profiled by Harvard and Stanford, with over 10,000 downloads in its first three months, and endorsed by academics like Steven Pinker and Peter Singer.
About a year later, Gasteratos felt compelled to start an organization that would better catalyze progress in cell-ag, motivating him to apply to Harvard as a dual-matriculated student and begin the formal organizational development of CAS while there. Harvard was also where Gasteratos would become the first cellular agriculture researcher/scholar at the university and Ivy League, overall. While simultaneously working as a researcher at Harvard Law School, he began to give the first lectures at Harvard on cellular agriculture, as well as at MIT and local events in the Boston area. His work there, alongside future colleagues at CAS, was featured in publications like Science, and in 2018, CAS was accepted into the Harvard Innovation Lab, in recognition for the nonprofit’s immense problem-solving potential. Although Gasteratos notes his enrollment as a student and researcher at Harvard was important, he ultimately spent more time devoted to cellular agriculture and CAS than to his school work; this led to his dropping out to work at CAS full-time in 2018.
Thereafter, Kris & the CAS team would go on to spearhead the first textbook on cellular agriculture, first course on cell-based meat at Stanford, Harvard/Stanford-profiled comprehensive list of benefits through 90 Reasons, future facility design through Project CMF, and an environmental report which would become a Harvard-trending literature in 2018. Kris has contributed to books, articles, and documentaries on cellular agriculture, and is among the first guest lecturers to speak on the topic at institutions and companies like Harvard, Stanford, Google, City University London, Texas A&M, and MIT. He has developed partnerships between CAS and the UN, Harvard, Elsevier and plans to continue accelerating the field of cellular agriculture though his work at CAS.
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