Executive Director, New Harvest
Class of 2013
Unlike most of her classmates, Isha Datar wasn’t interested in a traditional career in the pharmaceutical industry. She began her MBiotech studies after completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Alberta, where she decided to enroll in a meat science class as an elective, offered in the department of Agricultural, Food & Nutritional Science. Datar was the only non-Ag student in the class, and it was there that she became interested in the idea of cultured meat, publishing “Possibilities for an in-vitro meat production system” in the food science journal Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies in 2010. As a meat eater, she was fascinated by the idea of harvesting animal products sustainably from cell cultures, which is far less resource-intensive than traditional animal agriculture.
The MBiotech program’s focus on entrepreneurship prepared Isha for work in the real world — highlighting the importance of being self-directed, surrounding oneself with mentors, and never being afraid to ask for help. She cut her teeth with her co-op experience at GlaxoSmithKline in public policy before becoming the CEO of New Harvest in 2013, the only research institute in the world currently advancing the field of cellular agriculture. Her experience at GSK was incredibly useful for understanding the relationship between non-profits, for-profits, and academia accelerating research from discover to market.
At New Harvest, she uses the medical research model to advance cellular agriculture by funding early stage, foundational research in academia in order for ready-to-market technologies to be developed and companies to be founded. Since joining New Harvest, Datar has co-founded two cellular agriculture startups: Muufri, making milk without cows, in April 2014, and Clara Foods, making eggs without chicken, in November 2014.