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NZ on cusp of world-first biotech production surge

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New Zealand’s biotech industry is on the cusp of a massive surge, boosting the economy and exports through the growth of new world technologies, including the use of gene technology,  BiotechNZ executive director Dr Zahra Champion says.

The OECD has estimated the potential contribution of the bio-economy to New Zealand’s GDP will climb to $NZ182 billion by 2030.

Champion says biology and technology are merging to form exciting new solutions which will benefit New Zealand. 

“Biotech is growing exponentially in many areas including the revolution in gene editing technologies which will play a big part in the future of many sectors including healthcare, agriculture and conservation,” she says.

“Creating and accessing highly skilled talent will be key for New Zealander as we work in these new technologies and cutting-edge science.

“A national discussion needs to be held to debate the risks and benefits of these new technologies for New Zealand to compete on the world stage.

“New Zealand has significant capability in early stage innovation and huge opportunities to partner with large international corporates to scale and take technology to the world.

Kiwi companies leading the charge

“There are some incredible Kiwi companies discovering and producing in biotech in areas of health such as Argenta, which is using their expertise in anti-parasitics globally. 

“Pacific Edge, a Gisborne cancer diagnostic company, is working with the Tairāwhiti District Health Board to implement bladder testing for urology referrals so patients can get the peace of mind that they don’t have bladder cancer from their easy-to-use urine test. This avoids a cystoscopy and the need to travel long distances to the hospital. 

“Auckland’s AroaBio health company is designing and manufacturing medical products which enable surgeons and clinicians to repair serious tissue injuries. Their expertise lies in medical device development for soft tissue reinforcement and cellular scaffolding.

Champion says another company, Kea Therapeutics, is set to revolutionise the global pain relief drug market while many other New Zealand firms are creating world-first solutions using biotech.

“Nelson company Supreme Health is a plant-based natural health food company producing oil from algae that is being used as a foundation for products designed to treat a range of specific health conditions.

“We have seen biotech companies like Comvita merging their knowledge of a natural product like honey with biotech to create world-leading honey-based medicinal products.

“So, New Zealand is beginning to witness unprecedented opportunities in areas of technology convergence as cutting-edge and world-first technology continues to accelerate and merge,” Champion says. 

More than 70 percent of New Zealand’s export earnings are derived from biology-based industries spanning human and animal health, agriculture, horticulture and other natural products. Exports include finished products and ingredients destined for the food, cosmetics, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries.

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For further information contact Dr Zahra Champion on 021 899 732 or Make Lemonade editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188.

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