Willie Creek Pearls details potential billion-dollar biomedical project

Willie Creek Pearls details potential billion-dollar biomedical project - Artificial Jewellery

A partnership between Broome pearl producer Willie Creek Pearls and The University of Western Australia’s Medical School is blazing a trail in the search for a solution to the global shortage of bone implant materials in the medical industry.

A study led by Professor Minghao Zheng and Dr Rui Ruan confirmed that nacre from silver-lipped pearl oysters in Broome has a structure that makes it suitable for bone substitute material.

UWA has developed a patented technology for using nacre to make a substitute named PearlBone, which has been assigned to a biotech company called Marine Biomedical.

Willie Creek Pearls has a commercial arrangement with Marine Biomedical to supply raw materials to the company. Chief executive Paul Birch estimates that the project could generate $AU1.5 billion.

“The magnitude of the opportunity is interesting as the business’ foundation product PearlBone is focusing on revolutionising the product used for bone voids and trauma medicine,” he told The Australian.

“The staff at Marine Biomedical are focused on the development of their foundation product at the moment and behind the scenes there is a lot of research and development going on, which is exciting.”

In an interview with Jeweller last year, Zheng said the PearlBone project has the potential to change the pearl farming industry in Australia. 

“It’s completely reshaping the purposes of farming and what can be achieved with the product. If the project is successful it may lead to an increase in demand which in turn leads to more farms,” he said.

“That leads to a bigger industry with more and more people being hired from local communities, boosting local communities, which is great.”

Broome remains the centre of Australia’s South Sea pearl production. The price of pearls has continued to increase for the past two years due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“An advantage we have is that as a vertically integrated business, we have the opportunity to take the product we are farming and growing all the way through to the consumer, who are our guests and visitors,” Birch said.

“Off the back of a couple of extraordinary years in Broome, things have returned to the way they were pre-pandemic and our view is that if we continue to strive to deliver quality experiences and products, we will continue to experience increases that are real, sustainable, and manageable.”

In recent years, Australian pearls and pearl jewellery has been in particularly high demand in Asian markets.



More reading
Pearls are a man’s best friend
Post pandemic pearls
Two reasons why pearl prices are surging in Japan
New blockchain platform can track pearl provenance and ownership
Research sees potential use of pearl oysters for bone substitute


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