BIOTECH wins NICE Likha Award

  • Written by  Alexandria Camille M. Castillo and Florante A. Cruz
  • Published in News
Dr. Mercado with her plaque in the BIOTECH booth © OVCRE/Alexandria Camille M. Castillo Dr. Mercado with her plaque in the BIOTECH booth

UPLB BIOTECH’s entry “Microbial Rennet for Cheese Making” won First Place in the Outstanding Creative Research (Likha Award) category of the 2012 National Invention Contest and Exhibits (NICE). Dr. Susana Mercado, the sole inventor of this technology, took home a glass plaque and a P50,000 cash prize during the awarding ceremonies held last July 14, 2012 at the SMX Convention Center, Pasay City.

“Rennet, basically, is a milk coagulant,” Dr. Mercado explained when asked about the science behind her invention. Rennet is a complex of chymosin, proteases and other enzymes that is produced by mammals in their stomachs. The enzymes in the rennet can coagulate milk, separating it to curd and whey, and thus used in cheese making.

“The most recommended rennet is those sourced from the stomach of cows, carabaos, goats, and sheep,” she added. Getting rennet from these animals however means that they have to be slaughtered at a very young age.

What makes BIOTECH’s rennet unique is that it is produced from the common bread mold, Rhizopus chinensis, making it a better alternative since fewer cows and carabaos will be killed just to get the rennet from their stomachs. BIOTECH’s microbial rennet has almost similar characteristics and efficacy as that of animal rennet.

Microbial rennet is, of course, more economical since it is much cheaper than commercially-sourced rennet. “We are now able to produce our own high quality, calcium-rich cheese using microbial rennet,” noted Dr. Mercado.

When Dr. Mercado started her research on microbial rennet, her primary goal was to help the cheese-makers from her hometown-- Santa Cruz in Laguna. The cheese-makers rejected her technology at first but she did not stop until they realized the potential of her discovery. She is now training them in creating different high-value types of cheese that would give them higher income.

Dr. Mercado’s discovery has also stirred up the interest of local and foreign cheese producers of cheese. BIOTECH is now scaling up its production to meet the increasing demand of microbial rennet. “We estimate that production would increase from 20 to 300 liters per month within the year,” Dr. Mercado said.

The “Microbial Rennet for Cheese Making” technology is a result of Dr. Mercado’s doctoral dissertation in 1994. After years of trial and development, she has now perfected the product and made the rennet available in both liquid and granulated forms. Both have the same efficiency, but the granulated form has a longer shelf life which makes it suitable for long-distance and international delivery.

Dr. Mercado is currently applying for a patent and a trade name for the microbial rennet in preparation for its commercialization.

The National Invention Contest and Exhibition awarding ceremonies was the culmination of the National Science and Technology Week celebration spearheaded by the Department of Science and Technology.