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KGI Alumnus Samet S. Yildirim Joins Cultivated Meat Company Orbillion Bio as Co-Founder & COO

Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) alumnus Samet S. Yildirim, MBS ’13 and Advisory Board Member for KGI’s Amgen Bioprocessing Center, has joined cultivated meat start-up Orbillion Bio as Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO). Like other companies in this industry, Orbillion’s goal is to reduce our reliance on industrialized meat production, which will help save resources and lessen environmental impact.

Before joining Orbillion, Yildirim worked for biopharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim for seven years in multiple roles, including Head of Global Technology & Innovation for the Biopharma Business Unit.

“I tackled a lot of regulated products for healthcare applications, but I strongly believe that bioprocessing can also be used for consumer products and to address challenges we have currently in the world,” Yildirim said. “Factory farming uses a lot of land and animals, but we still need to feed people. Technology can help us find more efficient, humane ways to accomplish this. That’s why I think the cultivated meat industry is really promising.”

Yildirim believes that what differentiates Orbillion from other companies in the cultivated meat industry is that his founding team contains experts in bioprocessing, synthetic biology, high throughput screening, and quality.

“If you look at the current companies in this field, not every one of them was founded by experts,” Yildirim said. “Most of the companies are built by philanthropists who are tinkerers in the field who later hire team members with more technical skills.”

Orbillion obtains the animals’ cells by performing a small biopsy, isolating the primary cells, growing them, and appreciating them into muscles, utilizing this early research to select the best candidates.

“It is similar to drug development,” Yildirim said. “You select your drug at the first step of your research, and we do the same thing. So our advanced bioprocessing enables us to rapidly isolate, screen, and select cells that are best suited for commercial-scale food production.”

Yildirim feels that his KGI education prepared him well for his career trajectory. In the bioprocessing track of the Master of Business and Science (MBS) program, he took various classes, from technical courses to business courses, where he learned how to ask the right questions and develop a more entrepreneurial mindset.

“The training at KGI is pretty unique in that you can become a generalist.” 

“When I first joined Boehringer Ingelheim, I realized that I was one of the people in the meeting room that could understand all the dimensions. I may not be an expert in everything, but when people talked about regulation, market size, and technology, I knew what they were talking about,” Yildirim said.

Yildirim considers Professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship and MBS Director Joel West to be a significant influence and one of the reasons he joined innovation management. Henry E. Riggs Professor of Management Steve Casper was also really helpful when it came to strategic marketing to understand whether there was a niche to calculate the size of a business. Yildirim also cites former bioprocessing professor Matt Croughan as a really entrepreneurial person and an extreme technical genius from whom he learned a lot.

Those three elements—management, marketing, and bioprocessing—inform what Yildirim is doing today for Orbillion Bio.

“Samet was a star student at KGI, so it is not surprising to see him doing so well in the bioscience business world,” Casper said. “Samet has also been a terrific advocate for KGI, helping more recent MBS students with internships, jobs, and through sponsoring projects. I am excited to see that he is now involved with a start-up, and I hope KGI can continue to collaborate with him in the future.”