Like most students, I had no idea of what my future had in store for me after graduating from USC. I graduated in 2015 with a First-Class Honours Bachelor of Biomedical Science. I was lucky to be able to complete a very interesting Honours project involving bacterial tolerance to commonly used antiseptics with the Bacterial Genetics and Diseases Group (BGD).

I was tutoring Cell Biology and Introduction to BioScience students at USC when Dr David McMillan, my Honours project supervisor, told me about a Research Assistant position opening up at a company called Terragen Biotech. Terragen Biotech had a research agreement in place with the University of the Sunshine Coast. This agreement involved using space in the USC laboratories, occupying office space at USC’s Innovation Centre (Sippy Downs), and conducting research with several USC academics, including Dr McMillan. By the middle of 2016, I joined the company. Since then, David has continued to collaborate with Terragen. Today, Terragen has several intern positions available, and one of Dr McMillan’s PhD students holds one of these internships.

I have been with Terragen for almost three years and in that time the company’s staff based at the Innovation Centre has grown from 5 to 15, (23 in total, including the sales and marketing team and the support staff based in the Melbourne offices), drawing a majority of new hires from USC. The experience has been extremely rewarding. I have uncovered my passion for purpose-driven R&D and I would not have discovered this passion so quickly without the opportunity to work in industry and collaborate locally from the convenience of the USC campus. One of my favourite projects at Terragen is the development of natural biological products to combat major animal health issues. One of my roles at Terragen is to perform vital quality control analyses on a wide range of samples. Not only do I have the chance to execute these analytical tools, I actually get to manage the quality control techniques and procedures that Terragen now uses for all of its products and a wide range of field samples.

One of these products is an organic dairy cattle teat conditioner that a recently completed trial suggests will outperform current iodine-based teat health products, increase animal productivity by addressing udder health and improve milk quality. Furthermore, a study on Terragen’s feed additive product, Mylo®, was recently completed with dairy calves at one of Australia’s leading universities. The results of this study indicate that calves being fed milk supplemented with Mylo gained 8.5% more weight and had more well-developed gastrointestinal systems upon being weaned at 56 days of age.

Working with a team of highly motivated researchers with a variety of professional backgrounds, we are involved in cutting-edge innovation utilising intellectual property owned by Terragen with a key focus on developing organic products that help dairy farmers unlock productivity and reduce reliance on chemical-based fertilisers, pesticides and antibiotics, a pressing issue which I studied in some depth for both my undergrad and Honours projects at USC.

There are many benefits to working for a small company. Although it is sometimes challenging, it is extremely gratifying to be involved in the entire process from R&D right through to commercialising new products. From producing and testing the microbial-based products in the laboratory to hearing testimonials from satisfied farmers, it truly is rewarding work.

The Innovation Centre is a cool, collaborative place to work and last week I was part of the Terragen team that pitched to Glen Richards, Shark Tank investor and founder of Greencross.  2019 will be very exciting as we expand the Terragen operations to a purpose-built manufacturing and R&D facility which will allow for further growth, new global partnerships and the registration and commercialisation of our animal health products.  I am so grateful to be able to apply the skills I acquired at USC during my Honours years, and in the time that I have spent working for Terragen, I have learnt so much about the industry and look forward to what my future in science and innovation has in store for me.

Written by Tayhla Weire of Terragen Biotech