Multiple agricultural, industrial and human health applications
The average person may think of probiotics as the good bacteria that promote gut health – for Dr Gustavo Cerqueira and his team, the potential of probiotics is virtually unlimited in agriculture, food safety and technology, waste and pest management, animal health, and now in a range of exciting new human therapeutic applications.
Hailing from Brazil, Dr Cerqueira was fortunate to undertake PhD studies through the prestigious Institut Pasteur in Paris, an ideal academic foundation for a microbiologist who is passionate about taking discoveries from lab to market.
“In searching for novel microbials we aim to use conventional discovery and genetic techniques to characterise new probiotics, which are micro-organisms sourced from nature including fungi, and put them to use in biotechnologies to preserve food, add nutritional value and reduce ingredient costs, enhance organic agriculture, and for use as hosts to deliver new biological-based human therapies and medical technologies,” Dr Cerqueira says.
“The Cluster Biotechnology team has a passion for solving real-life issues, and I can’t wait to see my staff create, collaborate and innovate to become a success story in the Precinct.”
Arriving in Australia in 2011 as a research fellow at Monash University, before heading to James Cook University, Dr Cerqueira founded Cluster Biotech in 2015, based on industry demand for IP for specific solutions, such as Agriforte, the first probiotic pesticide used against fruit flies, and Agrisan, which prevents mould and fungal infection in crops.
He and his team have continued to develop their underlying discovery platform while patenting new applications – Foodsan, a probiotic biofilm spray, is their latest product undergoing pre-commercial trials in Norway and Ghana, aimed at preventing food spoilage and extending shelf-life and nutritional value.
“We hope it will extend opportunities for food exports from Australia and help to prevent food waste worldwide, while our project in Ghana shows the major opportunity to improve food security in Africa and elsewhere, where malnutrition continues to be such a big problem.”
With agricultural and industrial applications providing a fertile proving ground for their R&D, Cluster Biotech has recently entered into a joint venture arrangement with a major Australian Plastics player, which will help the industry partner diversify its repertoire of businesses, and jointly expand into the lucrative yet highly-regulated market of human health”
“We will be exploring opportunities in the medicinal cannabis field and we also believe we can use probiotic ‘biofactories’ to grow new anti-oxidants and anti-virals to be delivered as precision medicines and immune system therapies, while reducing the costs of treatment options.”
Another medtech application in the wings is a smart wound healing patch that it’s hoped will allow for remote monitoring of wound infection, with the slow release of healing doses of medication contained within the probiotic patch.
“Moving into our new labs in the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct gives us the first-class facilities to really focus on human health as our previous premises were set up for industrial R&D, and we’re eager to be able to meet Australia’s strict TGA requirements to develop new products that will be readily accepted worldwide.”
Read more about the move into COHORT and their exciting new lab spaces.
Precinct partnerships planned
“We look forward to finding research partnership opportunities with Griffith University and engaging their research students and talent – this is the ideal environment for our growth.”
Cluster Biotech hopes to expand its current core group of up to 10 staff and collaborators, to a 50 strong global team within the next 3-5 years.