The future of food: Scion hosting new Jooules research scientist

2 April 2024

Scion is helping support what could be the future of food hosting a research scientist for biotech start up Jooules.

Scientist Dr Usama Mukhtar has joined biotechnology research company Jooules as a research scientist and will be based at Scion’s Rotorua headquarters.

Jooules aims to pioneer ethical, functional, and resilient protein production, utilising fermentation to convert CO2 and renewable energy into protein for the future.

From left, Jooules chief scientific officer Luke Stevenson, founder David McLellan and research scientist Usama Mukhtar.

Founded in April 2022, Jooules is in its growth phase and Mukhtar will provide research to develop Jooules’ technology in the laboratory. His work will include development and analysis of microbial strains, and their cultivation/fermentation protocols and optimising growth of strains of bacteria for use in Jooules’ sustainable food production platform.

Mukhtar recently completed his PhD in Plant Biology at Massey University with a focus on genomics and physiology of plastids and mitochondria. He is originally from Pakistan where he did a bachelor’s degree before moving to the United States where he did a master's degree through Cornell University and undertook various short-term projects, spanning synthetic biology, biochemistry and stem cells.

“I enjoy interdisciplinary work and am always open to new fun challenges. I am looking forward to moving to Rotorua with my partner (Amat) and son (Nuh - 1 year) and enjoying the lakes. Maybe this can motivate me to finally take up mountain biking.”

Scion has had a commercial contract with Jooules since December with staff already doing some work.

Scion and Jooules staff.

Potential for real impact

Jooules’ Chief Scientific Officer Luke Stevenson and Founder David McLellan visited Scion this week. McLellan says Jooules is aiming to create ethical proteins from captured CO2 using a gas fermentation process using thermophilic microbes (capable of growing in extreme temperatures).

“These are ingredients for the future of food.”

He says Jooules is ultimately trying to build an efficient protein production platform to transform how food is produced and feed ourselves sustainably.

Stevenson says working with Scion is a clear choice, given Scion's gas fermentation expertise and capabilities.

“Gas fermentation is linked to everything we’re doing. That’s where it all starts ... We’ve been impressed by the attitude the Scion team has approached this work with.”

Bioproducts and packaging portfolio leader Alec Foster says the work with Jooules touches on multiple aspects of Scion including fermentation, chemistry and physics.

“It leverages off a lot of our capabilities and could have real impacts.”

For more information about Jooules, visit the website:

Scion's microbial biotech team lead Christophe Collet with Jooules’ Usama Mukhtar.