Dr Shafali Gupta is a molecular biologist on a mission to eradicate plastic pollution. As Co-founder and Co-CEO of sustainable packaging startup Uuvipak, Dr Gupta is chasing the ambitious goal of replacing 1 billion plastic products with their biodegradable, vegan, edible eco-packaging by the end of 2025. Dr Gupta leapt into the world of entrepreneurship just one year ago, after spending the past seven years as a Doctoral and Post-Doctoral research fellow working in the field of molecular biosciences at the University of Queensland. She came to Australia on an international PhD scholarship and is now using her skills and talent as a scientist to build a company solving one of the greatest global challenges of our time.
Dr Gupta grew up in a small town in India with limited opportunities and no female role models in science or business visible to her in her community. Yet with great determination and focus, she succeeded in her education and completed a Masters in Biotechnology in Mumbai before receiving a Junior Research Scholarship from India’s Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. Focusing on Smart Lanthano proteins for Phospholipid sensing Dr. Gupta rose to Senior Research Fellow with the institute. Then in 2015, she was awarded an international Ph.D. scholarship at the University of Queensland Institute of Molecular Biosciences, bringing her to Australia. As a Doctoral fellow, Dr. Gupta attended the Gordon Research Seminar’s international scientific conference in the USA. Yet despite her success in academia, she was drawn to entrepreneurship by her desire to see ideas she conceptualised move into industrial applications. Her passion for the environment was the final motivation for her to take the leap and start her own venture.
Launched in September 2021, Uuvipak creates 100% home-compostable products, by upcycling clean, organic food waste into single-use plastic alternatives, such as takeaway containers, cups, and cutlery. The team don’t use any artificial reagents or chemicals in their manufacturing process, and unlike most biodegradable products available on the market, their products decompose naturally within a few weeks and are even edible. Uuvipak have started trialling their products with local cafes, and long-term are targeting the packaging industry as a whole, with eco-packaging for food, beauty and tech all within their sights.
This year Dr Gupta and her co-founder Andy Epifani received a place in the new global Ocean Impact Accelerator Program, providing funding and support for six game-changing startup companies around the world working on solutions that will help improve ocean health. If Dr Gupta and her team achieve their goals for reducing plastic pollution, their impact on the health of the planet will be profound.