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PhD Studentship (4 years) - Scalable production of cultivated meat

School of Biosciences

Location:  Aston University Main Campus
Basis:  Full Time
Closing Date:  23.59 hours GMT on Sunday 10 January 2021
Reference:  R200312
Release Date:  Tuesday 10 November 2020

Supervisor: Dr Mariana Petronela Hanga

Associate Supervisors: Professor Ivan Wall

Project Reference: MIBTP_Hanga_Meat

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Sustainable Agriculture and Food; Renewable resources and clean growth

Applications are invited for four year Postgraduate studentships, supported by the Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP) and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Up to 6 studentships are available.

The studentships are available to start in October 2021. 

Financial Support

The studentships include a fee bursary to cover the Home fees rate, plus a tax free stipend of at least £15,285 p.a (to rise in line with UKRI recommendation).

Overseas Applicants

Overseas applicants may apply for this studentship, and the home fees rate will be covered. UKRI funding will not cover the difference between UK tuition fees and international tuition fees; international tuition fee payers will be required to fund the fee difference themselves. MIBTP encourages international students with existing sources of funding (e.g. fellowships) to apply. The difference between home and international fees is £13,443 in 2020/21. Please confirm in your application how you will fund the fee difference."

Background to the Studentship

All MIBTP scholars will join a programme of skills training in year 1. Applicants are required to select an area of study (Sustainable Agriculture and Food, Understanding the Rules of Life, Renewable Resources and Clean Growth or Integrated Understanding of Health) but may join the programme with or without selecting a preferred project. Part of the skills training programme includes short rotation projects and students are able to choose a PhD project once they have experienced these differing research environments.

Potential PhD projects are provided to give applicants an idea of the breadth of research within MIBTP and specific research topics at Aston University. You can browse the other projects available here. Additional projects will become available during Year 1 and students can work with potential supervisors during their first year to develop a particular project.

Project Outline

There is an increased need to find sustainable food alternatives to support the rapidly growing population. Traditional farm-based products are not sustainable and are one of the main contributors to the increase in greenhouse emissions. Cultivated or clean meat is an alternative food technology that offers a healthier and safer option for consumers that doesn’t require animal slaughter, while being estimated to lead to 96% less greenhouse gases, 96% less water and 99% less land required for its production compared to traditional farm-based meat. A significantly reduced risk of foodborne diseases is also predicted for clean meat in comparison to traditional meat products. Additionally, there is no need for any antibiotics which removes the risk of antimicrobial resistance that is a worldwide challenge. 

Cultivated meat is a relatively new concept and much work still needs to be done to reach affordability and the scale requirements for sustainability. Four primary challenges were identified in the manufacturing of cultivated meat and these were: 1) the need for better cell sources with simple and cheap culture requirements; 2) suitable manufacturing platform technologies for cell expansion and differentiation; 3) scalability to the industrial level and 4) nutritional value and health- promoting attributes [1-3].

This project aims to address the manufacturing platform technologies and the scalability challenges by developing a robust, reliable and cost-effective bioprocess for production of beef microtissues comprising fat and muscle cells. This aim will be achieved through: 1) development of a bioprocess for the production of fat; 2) development of a bioprocess for the production of muscle and 3) co-culture to form microtissues at the litre scale. 

Bovine mesenchymal stem cells (bMSCs) are a good cell source to start with as they are relatively easy to isolate and easy and cheap to grow. To date, we have successfully cultured bMSCs in stirred tank bioreactors [4]. bMSCs will be differentiated towards adipocytes by testing different adipogenic-inducing medium formulations. Additionally, MSCs will be induced to differentiate to the myogenic lineage by testing different cocktails of growth factors combined with hydrogels of different stiffness to increase myogenic expression through the creation of a three-dimensional environment. Initial studies will be performed in planar cultures at the lab scale, but then translated to scalable bioprocesses for industrial production. 

The outcome of this project will be the development of bioprocesses that will aid the industrial production of cultivated (clean) meat with a detailed analysis of their techno-economic feasibility. 

References:

[1] Gaydhane MK, Mahanta U, Sharma CS, Khandelwal M, Ramakrishna S. Cultured meat: state of the art and future. Biomanufacturing Rev. 2018; 3(1):1.

[2] Datar I, Betti M. Possibilities for an in vitro meat production system. Innov Food Sci Emerg Technol. 2010; 11(1):13–22.

[3] Arshad MS, Javed M, Sohaib M, Saeed F, Imran A, Amjad Z. Tissue engineering approaches to develop cultured meat from cells: A mini review. Cogent Food Agric. 2017; 3(1):1–11.

[4] Hanga MP, Ali J, Moutsatsou P, dela Raga FA, Hewitt CJ, Nienow A, Wall I (2020) Bioprocess development for scalable production of cultivated meat. Biotech Bioeng; 2020:1-11.

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have been awarded, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree in a relevant subject with a 60% or higher weighted average, and/or a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution) in a relevant subject. Full entry requirements for Aston University can be found on our website.

Evidence of quantitative training is required. For example, AS or A level Maths, IB Standard or Higher Maths, or university level maths/statistics course. Full entry requirements for MIBTP can be found on their website.

Contact information

For further information on the advertised project, please contact Dr Mariana Petronela Hanga at m.hanga@aston.ac.uk

Submitting an application

In order to apply for the MIBTP PhD studentship you must:

  1. Check your eligibility. 
  2. Complete a PhD application form on the Aston University website. From the drop-down options select School of Life and Health Sciences; October; Full time; Postgraduate Research; “Research Biomedical Sciences October 2021 Entry (Full-time)”.
  3. Notify MIBTP of your application by completing the online notification form; ensuring that you upload a current CV to the form.
  4. Review the MIBTP Data Privacy Policy to understand how we process your personal data.


When completing the Aston University application form, you will need to ensure to include the following documents:

  • Copies of your academic qualifications for your Bachelor degree, and Masters degree (if studied); this should include both certificates and transcripts, and must be translated in to English.
  • A personal statement*
  • A copy of your current CV
  • Two academic references
  • Proof of your English Language proficiency for non-Native English speakers, further details can be found on our website

*Please note that a project proposal is not required, however your Personal Statement should address your ability & knowledge of the research area.  Where applying for a specific project, please include the supervisor name, project title and project reference in your Personal Statement. 

If you require further information about the application process please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at pgr_admisssions@aston.ac.uk 

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Further particulars and application forms are available in alternative formats on request i.e. large print, Braille, tape or CD Rom.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact HR via recruitment@aston.ac.uk


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