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NZ 'must start recognising biotech for the future economy'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

New Zealand must start recognising biotech as a key technology for the future success of New Zealand’s technology, BiotechNZ executive director Dr Zahra Champion says.

Because of the massive global importance of biotechnology March 22-23 next year will see the first NZ life science event since 2017 in Wellington, to showcase New Zealand current work, the gaps and what Aotearoa needs to do as a nation.

Dr Champion says one of the leading lights in biotechnology is Ôtepoti (Dunedin) which is helping Aotearoa’s flourishing biotech ecosystems.

They own their biotech ecosystem and they are proud of biotechnology which is a technology that can solve some of New Zealand health, environmental, and sustainable goals.

"Unlike other countries New Zealand doesn’t have a biotechnology strategy or a bioeconomy strategy," Dr Champion says.

"It goes without saying that the basis of each biotech company should always be built on world-class innovation. But that is just the beginning.

"In order to develop a scientific discovery into a life-changing drug, we need products or services along with talent and specialists from all kinds of fields to be involved.

"These can include academia, research and development facilities, regulatory biotech lawyers and intellectual property law firms, as well as business development, commercial and financial experts, and access to smart capital and partners.

"Dunedin continues to build on its strong base and boasts one of the strongest biotech ecosystems throughout the country.

"Blair Harrison from ASX, one of the world’s leading securities exchanges, is backing BiotechNZ and Dunedin’s biotech approach.

"BioTechNZ, ASX and University of Otago brought discussed the city’s biotech ecosystem to discuss what Dunedin is doing well and what more can be done to grow the biotech sector.

"Back in the early 2000s under the government’s growth and innovation framework biotechnology taskforce was established to stimulate the growth and international competitiveness of New Zealand’s biotechnology sector.

"However, 10 years later this initiative was disestablished as due to the perception that the biotechnology over promised and underdelivered.

"However, if we look at a Dunedin born and bred company founded in 2001, Pacific Edge’s state-of-the-art suite of bladder cancer detection and management tests are non-invasive, highly effective, and more accurate than other urine-based cancer diagnostic tests.

Blis Technologies is a NZX listed developer and manufacturer of innovative probiotic solutions.

"Founded on the research of Professor John Tagg, previously an Otago University faculty member, the company was formed in 2000 to develop new bacterial species as probiotics for human health applications.

"University of Otago’s newest spinoff Amaroq backs Otago Innovation for their guidance in supporting Academics to transfer their technology into a product for the world.

"Dr Peter Meintjes, chief executive at Pacific Edge, says he cannot wait for expat New Zealanders to come home to fill positions for the biotech sector can be actively recruiting for roles now to keep fuelling Kiwi biotech companies.

"But it is also possible any of these roles could be based anywhere in the world in the new digital world.

"Formed in 2020, InsituGen technology was developed at the University of Otago, led by Professor Alison Heather, provides novel test for the detection of anabolic drugs in racehorses, athletes and supplements."

Dr Champion’s view of biotechnology goes well beyond medicine. For her, biotech includes agriculture, the environment, industrial applications and marine.

She is helping to build a vibrant ecosystem for biotech companies in NZ. An ecosystem that better connects biotech researchers to companies across industry and global capital markets.

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