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Forte Protein

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Forte Protein is a business founded in 2022 by Kathleen Hefferon, Ph.D. and Tracy Kirkman with a focus on producing alternative proteins using plant-based technology on a more rapid scale [1]. The mission of Forte Protein is to aid in the reduction of environmental impact of food production systems as well as combat growing global food insecurity by providing affordable protein options [1].


Proteins are essential macromolecules that are major structural components in muscles and tissues found throughout the human body.[2]. Dietary proteins are used in bodily anabolic processes [2].They are used to produce hormones, enzymes, and hemoglobin in the blood, and although are not a primary energy source, can be used as one [2]. To be metabolized and used as an energy source, proteins are converted into their building blocks–amino acids [2]. There are 20 amino acids necessary for growth and metabolism [2] Protein is found in multiple types of foods, including both animal and plant origins.[2]. However, while animal protein sources are considered complete and have all 20 amino acids, plant protein sources are usually lacking one or two amino acids [2]. Therefore, a wide variety of plant sources must be consumed to receive all 20 amino acids [2]


Animal agriculture generates 65% of global nitrous oxide emissions with a global warming impact greater than that of carbon dioxide by 296 times.[3]. Not only does animal agriculture have extremely negative effects towards the environment, but raising livestock for human consumption produces almost 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions [3]. With the continuously increasing population, there will be an increased demand for nutrient and protein-dense foods. In the next 35 years, global meat production is projected to skyrocket by 206 million tons per year [4]. It is necessary for the human body to obtain a sufficient amount of daily protein.[citation needed] Individuals with protein deficiencies are at higher risk of developing abnormal blood coagulation, cause mental hindrance, decreased vitals, weakness, weight reduction, swelling in various bodily zones, organ failure, and weak immune system.[citation needed] It is estimated that approximately one billion people have insufficient protein intake [4] Forte Protein spans environmental, cost, and nutritious benefits. Forte Protein takes out the need for both aspects of animal agriculture–the breeding, raising, and slaughtering of animals as well as the farming needed to feed these animals. It is also spatially much more efficient than animal agriculture. Each plant takes up less than a square foot of space [Note01 1]. With so much protein produced in a small space with limited cost, there is increased availability of protein aiming to directly benefit those who are already nutrient and protein deficient [Note01 1].


Forte Protein uses novel plant-based technologies to develop food-grade animal proteins. First, a nonpathogenic viral vector that contains codon-optimized animal proteins of interest is created and then given to plants using a high-scalability agrospray infiltration approach [Note01 1]. By using a geminivirus-based transient expression vector, plants are able to highly express proteins without negatively affecting the plant [Note01 1]. Plants are then harvested after 2-4 days and their proteins are purified [Note01 1]. Routinely-used purification techniques allow for rapid, inexpensive generation of large amounts of protein without much yield loss [Note01 1].


Forte Protein was initially funded through the SOSV venture capital firm and Genesis Fund [Note01 1].


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 K. Hefferon, personal communication, February 23, 2023.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Forte Protein. (2023, December 4).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Hoffman, J. R., & Falvo, M. J. (2004). Protein - Which is Best?. Journal of sports science & medicine, 3(3), 118–130.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Anderson, K., & Kuhn, K. (2019, April 1). Cowspiracy: The sustainability secret. Netflix.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Wu, G., Fanzo, J., Miller, D. D., Pingali, P., Post, M., Steiner, J. L., & Thalacker‐Mercer, A. E. (2014). Production and supply of high‐quality food protein for human consumption: Sustainability, challenges, and Innovations. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1321(1), 1–19.

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