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Biotech research helping medical, environmental areas


Tāmaki Makaurau – New Zealand med-tech companies are using research in biotechnology to help developments in medicine, protective equipment and sensors, BiotechNZ executive director Dr Zahra Champion says.

Auckland’s Scentian Bio has spent the last decade working out how to harness insects’ outstanding sense of smell to revolutionise the world of electronic sensors.

Other Kiwi firms, such as Pacific Edge, are researching and developing state of the art cancer diagnostics and prognostics, Dr Champion says.

“Global leader in nano fibre technology NanoLayer is producing high-performance face masks, which can be infused with active additives designed to trap and neutralise even the smallest airborne particles, while still allowing excellent airflow rates.

“Another NanoLayer product is DermaLayr, the fastest non-invasive dermal delivery platform for use in modern skincare products.

“Then we have Auckland-based Pictor which is a biotech company that has developed a diagnostic platform which can be used for diagnosing multiple diseases from a single small blood sample and in the future will be used for diagnosing complex diseases.

“In May last year, Pictor received a $500,000 grant from the MBIE covid innovation acceleration fund to fast-track the development of a covid diagnostic assay. Pictor has now filed a patent for that assay.

“In Dunedin, Blis Technologies have been the scientific leaders in oral probiotics since 2002 and developed the world’s first advanced oral probiotics. Leading the way in oral probiotic supplements to support your immune system.

“Wellington company Volpara Health is saving families from cancer by clinically validated, AI-powered software for personalised screening and early detection of breast cancer.”

These are just a few examples of some of Aotearoa’s fast growing biotech companies investing heavily into research, which is so critical during the global health crisis.

Dr Champion says overseas, synthetic biology research has manipulated micro-compartments in cells, potentially enabling bio-manufacturing advances for medicine, protective equipment and engineering applications.

“Our very own Kiwi company Lanzatech New Zealand has developed and commercialised a gas fermentation process that produces fuel.

“The company uses a microbial catalyst to convert industrial waste gases and biomass syngas into ethanol based products. Lanzatech New Zealand serves customers worldwide.”

Global researchers are faced with not only the challenge of covid vaccine development, but the need to scale up vaccine production which is leading to using plant-based production platforms, as they are an efficient system for bulk vaccine production, which reduces a number of challenges only requires space to grow more plants, she says.

 “We can rebuild our economy following covid with more funding in med-tech biotech. Research and innovation are central to our global competitiveness.

“Digital health technologies go beyond electronic medical records and critical connectivity and infrastructure into digital medicine and digital therapeutics.

“These technologies represent the cutting edge of medical development. They are the foundations for a digital healthcare system.”

For further information contact Dr Champion on 021 899732 or Make Lemonade editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188

BioTechNZ Our aim is to raise awareness and increase the understanding to enable our nation to embrace the best opportunities biotech offers to us daily, helping us live better, healthier and more productive lives.