When Gippsland microbiologist Emily Scholes entered Startup Gippsland’s 12-week Regional Incubator Program, she had no idea her fledgling business could soon be used to help protect industries against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Emily is the Founder and Chief Scientist at EnviroMicroBio, which assists industry on wastewater testing and analysis. She works with businesses to screen for the presence of COVID-19‘s DNA. As the pandemic has continued, high-risk businesses such as abattoirs have begun looking for ways to prevent closures, says Emily.
EnviroMicroBio, based at Gippsland TAFE Newborough, grew from Emily’s existing consulting work to industry on microbial control. The Startup Gippsland Incubator Program helped her identify her ‘value proposition’ and what she would need to do to develop the business commercially.
Emily, who is committed to bringing skills and employment to Gippsland, says it is a reminder of what regional businesses can offer. “Sometimes, regionally, we have an attitude that we can’t do it as well as people in the city — and we can,” says Emily.
Startup Gippsland began in 2018, initially supported by LaunchVic and is now funded by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. Female entrepreneurs alone founded half of the start-ups and co-founded another third with male entrepreneurs. The female entrepreneurs encompass everything from beekeepers to brain trainers, to those producing hand-dyed embroidery threads and to a business providing farm internships.
Emily’s start-up capitalised on her experience working with industry on microbial control and she says shifting to COVID-19 testing has been relatively simple. “I saw that scientists were doing this in the Netherlands and thought I could do this here.” She already had the necessary equipment, with a qPCR machine used for looking for tiny bits of DNA in the water.
Emily says microbiologists have long done this sort of testing. “Polio has been tracked like this; drug use is tracked this way,” explains Emily. “Businesses are in search of risk mitigation; it’s one more thing they can do,” she says.
Pictured above: Emily Scholes, Founder and Chief Scientist at EnviroMicroBio