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Conferences & lectures

Microbes and cell agriculture for sustainable food production

An interactive panel discussion with iGEM teams and industry leaders Michelle Oeser, Michael Selden and Ahmed Khan

Wednesday, August 19, 2020
12 p.m. – 1 p.m.

This event is free





Veggie burgers, algae shrimp, vegan cheeses, synthetic flavors, and animal-free egg whites are  making their way into our restaurants and supermarket shelves. What consumers may not realize, however, is that many of these foods are made using synthetic biology, an emerging science that applies principles of genetic engineering to redesign organisms to solve real world problems. 

Synbio holds a promise for a sustainable future for the food industry by using fewer natural food resources, improving crop yields, and ensuring the availability of basic nutrition at a global scale. Synbio food products are also key to a sustainable future for the space industry: NASA is designing a yeast strain that can manufacture crucial nutrients in space, like beta-carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), to ensure the health of astronauts during long-duration missions.

An increasing number of food suppliers are teaming up with microbes for smarter food production. Yet, public perception has been changing at a slower pace. This stems from a lack of accessible information leaving unanswered questions about the safety and environmental, economic, and social sustainability of these products. In collaboration with 4TH SPACE and iGEM Université de Laval, iGEM Concordia is hosting an online event where academic researchers, industry experts, and community representatives explore answers to these questions. 

How can you participate? Come and engage in the dialogue, via Zoom or watching live on Facebook, with our iGEM teams and industry leaders during a one hour interactive panel discussion, followed by guided Q&A and networking opportunities with our speakers.

Have questions on this topic that you want to get to the panelists ahead of time? Send them to


Michael Selden is the CEO and co-founder of Finless Foods, a company dedicated to creating fresh, delicious, and sustainable seafood for everyone. Growing up in Salem, Massachusetts, his dream has always been to create a sustainable future for the planet. At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Michael quickly realized how key science is to that future, and earned a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. He also developed a fascination with the interrelation between science and our food systems, specifically the critical role they play in economic, environmental, and social justice.

After a brief stint teaching high school in Taiwan and working at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine in Manhattan, Michael began applying to Ph.D. programs, until an Atlantic magazine article piqued his interest in cellular agriculture, inspiring him to ask the question “if we can make horseshoe crab blood without horseshoe crabs, why can’t we make seafood without harvesting fish?” From there, he had the fortunate opportunity to work with New Harvest, a pioneering non-profit that supports collaboration and innovation in the burgeoning field of cellular agriculture. That experience helped convince him to co-found Finless Foods, the only company currently capable of growing cell-based bluefin tuna, with the mission to help the ocean thrive by revolutionizing the seafood industry. His hobbies include trying to read every book he can get his hands on, making music, and learning languages.

Dr. Oeser earned her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Washington in Seattle, investigating how yeast cells modulate protein modification mechanisms to protect themselves from stress. Since joining Lallemand in 2014, she has held scientist, project management, and team management roles, developing novel and improved microbial products for a variety of applications, including food, human health, and biofuels.

Ahmed Khan is the founder and editor of CellAgri, a news and insights startup exploring the future of food with cellular agriculture. CellAgri provides the latest updates and insights on a range of topics relating to cellular agriculture. Ahmed is also the author of the first cellular agriculture ebook, ‘An Introduction to Cellular Agriculture,' an easy-to-read introduction to the field.

Ahmed is a co-founder and member of the Board of Directors for Cellular Agriculture Canada, a non-profit organization advancing and promoting the cellular agriculture industry in Canada. Ahmed has previously spoken about cellular agriculture in Singapore, Canada, the UK, and the US.

Organizing Committee

Hajar El Mouddene, iGEM Concordia

Lancia Lefebvre, iGEM Concordia

Paula Gomez, iGEM Concordia

Angel-Fernando Cisneros-Caballero, iGEM ULaval

Emilie-Margaret-Marie Alexander, iGEM ULaval

Kenza Samlali, iGEM Concordia, PhD Candidate in Synthetic Biology (moderator)



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