PhD Fellowship: Serum replacement for cultured meat production

Project background: Cellular agriculture refers to the use of biotechnology instead of animals to make products such as meat, milk, and egg whites. One area of cellular agriculture that is attracting a lot of attention is cultured, or in vitro meat, which refers to the manufacturing of meat products in a lab, through tissue engineering technology. This is done using animal-derived cells (often stem cells), and these starter cells are isolated from live donor animals via biopsy. The cells are then grown in culture media, which has been supplemented to provide the cells with the required nutrients to proliferate and then differentiate into cells of the desired lineage – in this case mature skeletal muscle cells. In order to produce three-dimensional tissues, an edible scaffold may be used, which will be populated with cells. The growing tissue may also be mechanically stimulated; in order to replicate the “exercising” that muscle cells would normally receive with an animals movement.

From a technical perspective, there are a number of challenges relating to the mass production of cultured meat. These include methods to incorporate fat, achieving appropriate tissue sizes, and culture medium free from animal ingredients


Project description: This project aims to address one of these challenges, namely investigating replacements for serum for cultured meat production.

Project objectives:

1. Investigate and analyse contents of fetal bovine serum

2. Utilising muscle stem cells (satellite cells), from New Zealand livestock species of interest, investigate the dependence of satellite cell differentiation on serum concentration

3. Explore alternatives to fetal bovine serum including New Zealand plant and algal extracts, and waste stream extracts.


Benefits: The three-year studentship, funded by the Riddet Institute, includes an annual tax-free stipend of NZD $30,000 pa plus tuition fees. As the successful candidate you will be enrolled in and based at the University of Auckland.


PhD Supervisors: Dr Laura Domigan and Professor Juliet Gerrard (University of Auckland); Professor Warren McNabb (Massey University)


How to apply:

Closing date for applications is January 31st 2018.

Please send your application (cover letter, CV, academic transcript) and any other enquiries to Dr Laura Domigan (


For further information on postgraduate study at Auckland University please see: