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Enzyme Scientist Wins Top Bio-tech Award

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Enzyme Scientist Wins Top Bio-tech Award

Dr Wayne Patrick, from the Institute of Natural Sciences at Albany has been named the NZBio Young Biotechnologist of the Year.

Dr Patrick, 32, is a biochemist heading a team of six undergraduate science students in the development of an enzyme engineering process with the potential to transform DNA sequencing technologies.

NZBio is the national peak body representing bioscience industries. The award, supported by the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, is presented to a scientist under the age of 40 whose work demonstrates the potential for future leadership in biotechnology.

Dr Patrick says he is thrilled at receiving the award as it reinforces the role and relevance of fundamental scientific research in advancing new technologies for medical, industrial and agricultural use.

The judging committee said he stood out as a candidate for the award because of his world-class research and development in the field of DNA ligase enzymes. He and his team have developed a more efficient synthetic version of the enzyme, which has become an indispensable tool in modern molecular biology research.

Dr Patrick joined Massey in October 2007 after four years of postdoctoral research at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, one of the world's leading research universities. He completed his PhD at Cambridge University and, prior to that, a Bachelor of Science (Honours) at Otago University.

He says the enzyme in its current commercially available form is expensive and unreliable and his "obsession" with improving its function could enable speedier development of molecular tools that break down harmful chemicals used in farming and horticulture, as one example.

"The research in my lab group addresses fundamental questions about the evolution of enzyme structure and function, and we use that fundamental understanding to help us engineer bio-molecules with new or improved functions."

"This award is an acknowledgement that biotechnological innovation can come from fundamental research, and I am excited that we here in New Zealand recognise that fact. I hope that my own best work is still to come, but, thanks to my students, I am certain that the future of New Zealand biotechnology is bright."

Part of his prize includes participation in a New Zealand delegation to this year's Bio International Convention in Chicago in May.

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