PhD-candidate at FHML-NUTRIM / dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology for Assessing the safety of lab...

Updated: 2 months ago
Job Type: Temporary
Deadline: 22 Jun 2022

To get our diet within planetary boundaries, a shift towards alternative food systems is urgently needed. Cellular agriculture is a revolutionary approach to produce proteins. The current project focuses on three different cellular approaches to produce milk proteins.  How safe are such cellular production processes and their resulting proteins?  And how well are these novel proteins digested and absorbed?

The growing world population and its increasing demand for sustainable and high-quality food protein has a strong impact on future societal and scientific research topics. The production of animal proteins as sole protein source not only has an enormous environmental impact with its low production efficiency, and raises ethical concerns about the living conditions of cattle. Animal agriculture also has an impact on human health through animal-borne diseases and the use of antibiotics. While 906 million tons of milk were produced in 2020 alone, the scepticism of consumers towards dairy products is rising for the aforementioned reasons. A novel and highly promising alternative approach for the production of dairy proteins is cellular agriculture. This is the production of animal-based proteins from cell cultures using various cell lines, bacteria, yeast, fungi, and microalgae.

Cellular agriculture is a major revolution that will allow us to meet future food protein needs very efficiently and with high sensorial and nutritional quality, while requiring hardly any agricultural land. However, not much is known about the safety of the cellular production processes as well as the resulting novel proteins, so the basis for future investment decisions is unclear. Therefore, the present project will focus on toxicologically assessing these novel dairy proteins produced by cellular agriculture.

We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD candidate to analyse the safety of novel functional proteins which are ingredients for the next generation of dairy alternatives. The research will involve toxicological studies from in vitro to in silico with regards to various end points of the cellular milk proteins in order to assess their safety. This will contribute to safe ingredients for the next generation dairy alternatives. The PhD position will be based at Maastricht University in the department of Pharmacology & Toxicology in collaboration with the department Food Claims Centre Venlo.

The position is funded by the NWO project Protein 2.0, with co-funding from a large number of international companies. The aim of this project is to investigate the potential of new protein sources, produced through three techniques: tissue engineered milk, precision fermentation derived milk proteins and single cell proteins. The project is focused on exploring the bottlenecks that currently hinder affordable large-scale production, including protein quality, mild downstream processing, but also EU legislation and safety. The project is a collaboration with Wageningen University, Utrecht University and Hogeschool van Hall Larenstein.

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