Food Science Doctoral Student Shares First Place in International Biotech Start-Up Competition

Amadeus Driando Ahnan pitching TempEasy.
Amadeus Driando Ahnan pitching TempEasy. Photo courtesy Chris Williamson

Food science doctoral student Amadeus Driando Ahnan’s startup idea “TempEasy” shared first place in the 2018 Voices of Tomorrow Competition at the GapSummit Biotechnology Conference at Cambridge University, England, on April 18.

TempEasy aims to eradicate protein-energy malnutrition in developing countries by manipulating the biotechnology process in tempeh, a staple traditional protein-rich food from Indonesia made of fermented soybeans. Tempeh contains a similar amount and quality of protein as beef, but its production consumes 10 times less energy, produces 5 times less global emissions, and costs 25 times less.

Tempeh fermentation also adds the essential Vitamin B12 to the food and removes anti-nutrient phytates.

The competition began with each participant pitching his/her own idea to their team members, and each team choosing one idea to go forward with. Ahnan pitched his original idea on the science and technology of tempeh, including a 3D-printed tempeh maker and high-Vitamin B12 tempeh products, which was further developed by team members, especially the business plan.

“UMass plays a very important role in this ‘tempeh’ journey,” Ahnan said, “The tempeh idea is a combination of my background as an Indonesian student at UMass, what I do with my non-profit organization Indonesian Tempe Movement (www.tempemovement.com), my research in Dr. Hang Xiao’s lab, use of the UMass library’s 3D-printing facility and insights from classes at UMass.”

Ahnan said the competition put a spotlight on the university’s food science department for being at the forefront of translational research that combines indigenous global foods with most recent technologies to address malnutrition, a leading cause of child morbidity and mortality.

Because of the “remarkably high level of the pitches” at the competition, the judges said they were unable to decide a first place and instead awarded a joint first place. Chinosan, a startup aiming to provide a sustainable solution to seafood waste, shared the top spot with TempEasy.

GapSummit is the flagship event of Global Biotech Revolution, a student-led not-for-profit with the mission to inspire young people and support the next generation of leaders to ensure sustainability and growth of the biotechnology industry. GapSummit brings 100 future biotech leaders from more than 40 nations to the University of Cambridge to discuss current challenges facing the bio-economy alongside over 60 world leaders in biotech and the pharmaceutical industry to start developing impactful solutions.

Ahnan’s team included Christopher Huang, an MS student at Oxford University, England; Claire Richards, a business analyst at AstraZeneca, London; Bianca de Leon, a clinical researcher at Kimberly-Clark, Brazil; and Manuel Besares, a biotechnology graduate from Tabasco, Mexico.

The award was something of a famiy affair; Ahnan’s grandfather, Florentinus Gregorius Winarno, is a UMass Amherst alumni and internationally known leader in food science and technology.

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