Three late-stage PhD candidates from Western Australian universities have been accepted into an industry internship program to undertake cultivated meat research. The internships are funded by the Government of Western Australia, a first for the Australian cellular agriculture sector.
The seven-week iPREP WA (Industry and PhD Research Engagement Program) will take place at Cass Materials, a cellular agriculture startup based in Perth creating an affordable and edible cellulose-based scaffold for cultivated meat production. The emerging research field of cellular agriculture is dedicated to producing meat and other animal products (such as eggs and dairy) without the need for conventional animal agriculture. This technology could have significant potential implications for environmental sustainability, animal welfare, biodiversity, and human health.
The project will involve growing meat cells on Cass Materials' proprietary ingredient derived from nata de coco cellulose, and researching the socio-environmental impacts of scaling its production.
Gary Cass, Founder of Cass Materials, says “It is wonderful to be part of the iPREP WA program and gaining access to a diverse group of near-graduating academic talent across all the Western Australia universities. With our wide ranging sets of skills, both my company and the iPREP interns can benefit from each other.”
The three iPREP WA interns, Prathyusha Tangella, Tilsa Guima, and Thanh Hoang, are currently working on individual projects including lab-based research, consumer acceptance research, and life cycle assessment of cultivated meat production, under the guidance of Cass Materials and Cellular Agriculture Australia.
iPREP WA is a collaboration between the five WA universities and provides scholarships for PhD candidates to gain work experience with industry startups, SMEs, or large corporations.
“We are excited to partner with an innovative start-up like Cass Materials to help contribute to the associated socio-environmental issues in the global food market,” says Narelle Jones, iPREP WA coordinator. “The project promotes new research and development collaboration opportunities between universities and agribusiness by exposing PhD candidates to cellular agriculture and industry practices. We look forward to seeing the outcomes of the project!”
The partnership between iPREP and Cass Materials is funded under the Agribusiness Tertiary Connect Grant from the Science and Agribusiness Connect initiative. This initiative, developed by the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation, is aimed at building the capability of Western Australia’s agricultural science sector. iPREP WA is currently taking expressions of interest from agribusinesses who qualify for a funded project.