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Dr Mariana-Petronela Hanga
5.10D (Bernard Katz Building)
Department of Biochemical Engineering
University College London
Dr Mariana-Petronela Hanga profile picture
  • Lecturer in Biochemical Engineering
  • Dept of Biochemical Engineering
  • Faculty of Engineering Science

Petra is a Lecturer in Biochemical Engineering – Cellular Agriculture. She is an associate member of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (AMIChemE), a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) and the recipient of the ESACT-UK Inaugural Chris Hewitt Rising Star Award.

Other current and previous roles include:

-ESACT-UK Committee member (2021 – to date)

-IChemE Biochemical Engineering Special Interest Group Travel Bursary Secretary (2018-to date)

-IChemE Biochemical Engineering Special Interest Group Committee Member (2018-to date)

-CDT for Engineered Tissues for Discovery, Industry and Medicine (lifETIME)–Equality and Diversity working group (2019 – 2021)

-Aston University Wellbeing Champion and Wellbeing Committee Member (2019– 2021)

-Aston University Health and Safety Committee Member (2019 – 2021)

-Biotechnology Letters – Editorial Board Member (2014 – to date)

-Guest Co-Editor for Advances in Stem Cell Bioprocessing and Preservation Methods for Cells Special Issue, Processes (2021 – to date)

-Peer reviewer >14 journals including Biochemical Journal, Journal of Tissue Engineering, Foods, Cells and Biotechnology Letters

Petra joined UCL on 1st of September 2021. Prior to UCL, she was a Lecturer in Biological Engineering at Aston University (2017-2021). Petra has graduated with a BEng in Biochemical Engineering from Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania (2002-2007). Following her undergraduate degree, she worked briefly as a Chemical Engineer in Romania and then came to the UK to start her PhD as part of the EPSRC DTC in Regenerative Medicine at Loughborough University (2009-2014). She then worked as postdoctoral researcher on a BBSRCBRIC funded-project at Loughborough University (2013-2017) before joining Aston University in 2017.

Research Themes
Research Summary

Petra’s research interests lie at the intersection of Engineering and Life Sciences. Her research addresses two distinct grand challenges: 

1) healthcare, by developing future therapies that will minimise the economic and social burden of an aging population and 

2) food and nutrition for health, by advancing cultivated meat technologies that ultimately will enable a radical shift away from industrial animal farming. 

Petra’s multidisciplinary strengths and expertise include an understanding of the whole bioprocess from inoculation to harvest, including engineering characterisation of bioreactors, scale-up and biological characterisation of stem cells. She is particularly interested and very passionate about cellular agriculture and sustainability. Her current research projects focus on scaled-up production of cultivated meat, methods to increase cost-efficiency in bioprocesses, bioprocess intensification for high density stem cell cultures and scalable production of cell-free therapies based on stem cell-derived exosomes. 

Petra has strong links with the cultivated meat industry particularly with Mosa Meat (The Netherlands), the cultivated meat company that demonstrated the proof-of-concept cultivated beef burger in 2013, Gourmey (France), Hoxton Farms (UK) and Ivy Farm Technologies (UK) to name a few. Petra also successfully secured funding from The Good Food Institute (2019), a US charity dedicated to supporting and promoting alternative proteins worldwide. Other funding includes the EPSRC Transformative Healthcare Technologies (EP/W004585/1) (co-I), Innovate UK (with Four Plus and HoloSphere), EPSRC lifETIME CDT, BBSRC MIBTP DTP and BBSRC (BB/S00324X/1). 

Petra is currently a Committee Member of the ESACT-UK and a Committee Member and Travel Awards Secretary for the IChemE Biochemical Engineering Special Interest group (BESIG). She has acted as an organiser and chair for numerous sessions in the IChemE BESIG Commercialising Industrial Biotechnology meeting (April 2021), Cell and Gene Therapy Advances meeting (November 2020) and Annual and Young Researchers Meeting (September 2018). She is also an Editorial Board Member for Biotechnology Letters and a peer reviewer for multiple journals including Biochemical Engineering Journal, Foods, Journal of Tissue Engineering etc. To date, she has delivered numerous invited talks including at ThermoFisher Gibco’s 5 Days of Stem Cells event (2021), The Wageningen Alt. Protein Project (Netherlands) (2021), the International Serum Industry Association (ISIA) 16th Annual Virtual Meeting and The Good Food Seminar Series (2020). She is also the co-founder of a cultivated meat start-up. 

Teaching Summary

Petra’s teaching activities at UCL are currently focused on Year 1 undergraduate and postgraduate level. At undergraduate level, Petra is the module leader for Introduction to Biochemical Engineering (Year 1). At doctoral level, she is a contributor on the Pilot Plant Research Project. 

She is also the Programme Director for the MSc in Biochemical Engineering and the Admissions Tutor.

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