LeaP & PULSE | How the BIA supported Extracellular’s start-up journey

Will Milligan recently founded Extracellular, the first dedicated manufacturing partner to support cellular agriculture. Will shares how the BIA has supported his professional development and Extracellular’s start-up journey.

What is Cellular Agriculture? 

For every new industry, the challenges of scale and commercialisation initially seem like a daunting hill to climb. Cellular agriculture is no different. 

Cellular agriculture is the principle of growing agricultural products directly from cell cultures instead of using livestock. It’s the idea of growing a burger in a bioreactor instead of killing a cow, and developing slaughter-free sausages with real animal cells. More than 100 companies have been founded to bring these products to market, all with the mission of advancing sustainable and ethical alternatives to reared meat. More than $1B was raised globally in 2021 to advance the industry - a figure that’s rising 3- to 5-fold annually. 

Extracellular has been established as the first CDMO dedicated to support the field of cellular agriculture, helping to address the cost, scale and sustainability challenges.

The First Big LeaP

For me, the BIA has been a great source of support through my professional career, leading to the point I was ready to start my own company.

Four years ago I applied to LeaP, the BIA Manufacturing Advisory Committee’s Leadership Programme. At that time, I was finalising my Engineering Doctorate thesis on allogeneic cell therapy manufacturing, and had been working for 10 months as a bioprocess engineer at eXmoor pharma, developing scalable viral vector processes. 

Through LeaP, I was part of a cohort of 12 aspiring bioindustry leaders. As well as hosting each other at our respective companies sites, we quickly formed a supportive peer group - sharing aspirations, discussing challenges, and building friendships as we progressed through our careers. 

After finishing the programme, I was keen to see the networking benefits extended beyond its initial 2 year period, and helped launch the LeaP Alumni programme, connecting the wider group of aspiring leaders with each other. Through the support of MAC we’re now a group approaching 100 members, with 20 people now filling senior leadership positions in their respective companies. 

It’s particularly through meeting inspirational leaders through LeaP that I was inspired to found Extracellular, to address technical challenges in a nascent industry.

Finding a PULSE

As an entrepreneur with a technical background, there’s a long list of unknown unknown’s to deal with when starting a business. The BIA PULSE programme is designed to lift the cloud of business and leadership, and accelerate the start-up journey. 

PULSE was an intensive 3-day workshop at The Francis Crick Institute, covering leadership, IP, commercial law, business plans, recruitment, fundraising amongst other topics. In total, 50 industry experts passed through the programme to share their experiences and advice. 

I was able to directly apply some of the lessons from PULSE to ongoing discussions with partners supporting Extracellular, and thanks to this BIA initiative I once again have an inspiring network of peers and experts willing to share their knowledge and time.  

How the BIA Continues to Support Start-Up’s  

The BIA has been incredibly supportive for a bioindustry start-up like Extracellular, with free membership in the first year through PULSE, ongoing networking events, and empowering networking between members. Next up on the BIA roster for start-ups is the BIA Start Up festival in May 2022. 

As I focus on starting a new venture, I’m grateful to those that have continued to support these initiatives. When the time is right, I’m looking forward to paying forward the generosity shown to me and supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders. 


Will is founder and CEO of Extracellular and Chair of the LeaP Alumni. If you’re interested in finding out more, contact [email protected].

More within