Inside a squat building on San Francisco’s 10th Street, packed into a space that looks a lot like a high school chem lab, Hampton Creek is redesigning the food you eat. Mixing and matching proteins found in the world’s plants, the tiny startup already has created a reasonable facsimile of the chicken egg—an imitation of the morning staple that’s significantly cheaper, safer, and possibly healthier than the real thing—and now it’s working to overhaul other foods in much the same way.
....But [Dr. Gregg] Ziegler, the Penn State food scientist, is quick to say the difficulties facing this project shouldn’t be underestimated. Trying to physically redesign food is hard enough—when Roche cooked us an omelet at Hampton Creek, it came close to the feel and taste of a real egg without actually matching it—and modeling this kind of thing with software may be even harder. “The functionality of proteins depends not just on their chemical composition but also their physical structure, and I’m not sure that we know enough about what the desired compositions and structures are,” says Ziegler. “I don’t know that we’re quite at the stage of being able to do the same level of computation predictions you can do for electronics materials or other simpler materials.” It may even be easier, he says, to model medicines and predict their behavior. [MORE]