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Zahra Champion

Oritain’s fingerprints all over NZBIO trophy

Wellington New Zealand October 12 2017: Oritain, a company that detects food fraud using “fingerprints” in the chemical compositions of plants, soils, water and animal feed, is New Zealand’s Biotechnology Company of the Year.

Oritain, which grew out of Otago University, works with companies around the world and locally with the likes of Synlait, Alliance Group, NZ Honey Company and Lewis Road Creamery.

Dr Zahra Champion, chief executive of NZBIO, says Oritain most recently partnered with GE Healthcare, one of the world leaders in supplying high-quality serum to global vaccine manufacturers. It will verify the origins of GE’s Foetal Bovine Serum (FBS) from New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

FBS, a blood by-product, is used as a growth supplement in cell cultures producing vaccines or biopharmaceutical drugs. It is also used when growing cells for basic research and drug discovery.

Since sera are derived from animals, the risk of virus contamination is unavoidable.

Countries such as New Zealand, Australia and the United States have a lower risk of viral contamination and as a result the demand for proven sera from these origins is high.

Dr Champion says Oritain is a perfect example of game-changing technology that can be found in New Zealand.

“Biotechnology will be central to addressing many of the world’s current and future problems – in heath, medicine, agriculture and environment,” she says. “I don’t think New Zealanders understand the changes that are rapidly taking place. Yet we have some pockets of innovative greatness in New Zealand that are already contributing to solving those problems.”

NZBIO also paid tribute to Maxine Simmons, who received the 2017 Bioscience Achievement Award.

Maxine has more than 30 years commercial experience in start-up and expansion stage private company development. She was a founding director of Industry New Zealand (now New Zealand Trade and Enterprise), a director of NZ’s Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, Crown Research Institute, Industrial Research and represented New Zealand on the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).

A former chairman of NZBIO, Maxine is executive director of early-stage healthcare investment fund Cure Kid Ventures and a director on several private healthcare companies in New Zealand.

For its final award in association with its annual conference, NZBIO awarded the “Young Bioscientist of the Year” to Dr Ollie Crush.

An experienced biotechnologist with a strong synthetic biology background, Ollie is a serial entrepreneur with extensive experience in bacterial and yeast model systems for probing complex microbiological operations.

In 2016 Dr Crush co-founded Mint Innovation – a biotechnology company recovering precious metals from waste materials.  As Mint’s chief scientific officer Dr Crush is responsible for developing a robust scalable process – taking the process from laboratory proof of concept stage to a world first pilot stage.


For more information contact:

Dr Zahra Champion


Felicity Anderson
Trio Communications
Tel: +64 21 22 40 520

Zahra Champion Zahra is Executive Director of BIOTechNZ and is working to bring together a national community of biotech innovators, investors, researchers, educators and policy makers; and connecting this community to global biotech ecosystems.