Press "Enter" to skip to content

Duke a Partner in NC State’s new Bezos Center for Sustainable Protein

The Bezos Center for Sustainable Protein has launched at North Carolina State University. The Bezos Earth Fund awarded NC State $30 million over five years to lead a center of excellence to create a biomanufacturing hub for dietary proteins that are environmentally friendly, healthy, tasty and affordable. Duke’s World Food Policy Center is a collaborator in the work.

NC State will work with academic partners Duke University, N.C. A&T State University, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Forsyth Tech Community College on research, workforce development, and community engagement efforts. More than 20 industry partners will also be part of the center, which will facilitate technology transfer and student internships and mentorships.

The center will engage partners from academia and industry to research, create, and commercialize new technologies, provide training for the emerging industry workforce, and gauge consumers’ protein preferences.

Norbert Wilson at the Bezos Center for Sustainable Protein launch event
Norbert Wilson

“The challenges of climate, nutrition, and sustainability are more pressing today than ever. If we are going to ensure that all people will have access to enough food in the future, we can’t ignore the need to make changes now,” said Sanford School of Public Policy Professor Norbert Wilson at Duke University. “As an agricultural economist, I’m excited to partner with NC State University through the new Bezos Center for Sustainable Protein. This Center is the right team of research and industry partners to innovate new climate-conscious and nutritious proteins.”

Protein is essential to human health, whether it comes from animal or plant sources. Without the amino acids in protein, our cells, tissues and organs can’t function. And as the global population expands, the health of both humans and the planet will increasingly depend on widespread availability of proteins that taste good and are produced in ways that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect nature.

Andrew Steer, CEO and President of the Bezos Earth Fund
Andrew Steer

“Food production is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s critical we find ways to feed a growing population without degrading the planet,” said Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the Earth Fund. “Sustainable protein has tremendous potential, but more research is needed to reduce the price and boost the flavor and texture to ensure nutritious, affordable products are available. It’s about choice.”

The grant funding will support research on three types of sustainable proteins: plant-based products; precision fermentation to produce proteins and nutrients that can be used in food formulations; and cultivated meat grown from animal cells.

Andy Jarvis, Bezos Earth Fund Director of Future of Food
Andy Jarvis

“Feeding a growing world requires producing tasty proteins that won’t further degrade nature,” said Andy Jarvis, the Earth Fund’s Director of Future of Food. “These centers will advance open-source, sustainable protein R&D to benefit consumer choice while protecting our planet.”

“Society needs to harness new ways of thinking and approaches to food production and formulation. It will take transdisciplinary research teams like this to develop new thinking on alternative proteins and research-based approaches to gain societal and regulatory acceptance. I’m eager to explore the enabling policies for a thriving and sustainable marketplace for new protein options,” said Wilson.

Rohan Shirwaiker, NC State
Rohan Shirwaiker

“This effort is all about expanding the sustainable protein knowledge base and ecosystem,” said Rohan Shirwaiker, James T. Ryan Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at NC State, principal investigator on the grant, and co-director of the center. “The center’s capabilities and partnerships will add a new dimension to expand NC State’s biotechnology and advanced manufacturing expertise.”

The center will also provide more reasons for biomanufacturing firms to locate in North Carolina, generating jobs and economic growth. The grant funding will help prepare the workforce for jobs in advanced food technology through various university and community college partnerships, while industry partnerships will support food production and processing, including small companies and start-ups.

Bill Aimutis, co-director
Bill Aimutis

“This is a significant opportunity for North Carolina to not only be a state with a thriving animal-sourced foods sector, but also one where it is a powerhouse in complementary proteins, building new industry and driving economic growth for the state,” said Bill Aimutis, co-principal investigator on the grant and co-director of the new center who has extensive experience working with sustainable protein producers and start-up companies. “With the center we are looking to develop solutions that will provide greater diversity of choices for consumers that are both tasty and sustainable.”

This announcement builds on the Bezos Earth Fund’s $1 billion grant commitment to help transform food and agricultural systems to support healthy lives without degrading the planet, which also includes efforts to reduce emissions from livestock.