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Science NZ Awards celebrate Scion scientists and research excellence

Scion’s leadership in forestry science, bioplastics research and biotechnology has been celebrated by Scion and its peers at the Science New Zealand Awards.

Scientists from all seven Crown Research Institutes and Callaghan Innovation were represented at the ceremony held in Parliament on Tuesday night. The awards are in three categories – Early Career Researcher, Lifetime Achievement, and Team. Each Science New Zealand member names a recipient in each category and a panel of independent judges chooses a Supreme Award winner from the 24 awardees.

Scion’s awardee for Individual/Lifetime Achievement is Principal Researcher Dr Mike Watt for his leadership in forest science, Scion’s awardee for Early Career Researcher is biopolymer scientist Dr Angelique Greene, and our awardee for the Team Award is the biotechnology team that collaborated with a company in 2021 to support work that explored an experimental Covid-19 vaccine.

Scion chief executive Dr Julian Elder says the awards showed the depth and breadth of talent across Crown scientists, including Scion, and lifted the profile of their impactful research for New Zealand.

“Most scientists quietly work behind the scenes, but this is a chance to celebrate their achievements and recognise their extraordinary contributions to various industries and New Zealand’s economy.

“For Scion, it’s fantastic to see Mike’s expertise recognised, and the creativity and problem-solving ability that Angelique brings to her work every day at Scion. What’s more, this year’s Scion Team award recipients showcase our capabilities in biotechnology, a cutting-edge research area at Scion where we are making our mark and delivering wonderful results.”

Scion Principal Researcher Dr Mike Watt received one of eight Individual/Lifetime Achievement Awards for his distinguished scientific career spanning more than two decades. During this time, he has made significant contributions to several research areas with notable influence within the areas of forest science, weed management, forest growth modelling and, most recently, remote sensing.

He has produced 173 peer-reviewed publications across a range of topics connected to forestry, making him one of our country’s most prolific and trusted forest researchers. His scientific explorations have advanced knowledge of our nation’s forest estates, providing opportunities for industry to translate his research into practice – adding enormously to the health and economic value of plantation forests across Aotearoa.

A globally recognised expert in his field, Dr Watt’s expertise and research leadership will continue to be sought-after by forest managers needing a competitive edge.

An Early Career Researcher Award was presented to Dr Angelique Greene, one of Scion’s most creative and productive emerging scientists since joining Scion’s Biopolymers and Chemicals team four years ago.

Angelique received her PhD in chemistry in 2016 and is already leading several major research projects and making important contributions to others.

Her keen sense for immediate commercial impact has been demonstrated through the success of her Innovation Jumpstart project that developed into a collaboration with Auckland-based filament manufacturer Imagin Plastics. Together with Scion, and with very significant input from Angelique, they have developed an innovative new product targeting users of home 3D printers.

The Team Award was the third category and Scion’s awardee was the CVC Vaccine Biotech Team. The interdisciplinary team partnered with CVC (Covid-19 Vaccine Corporation Ltd) to contribute to the global fight against SARS-CoV-2 by helping to develop and manufacture an experimental Covid-19 vaccine.

The team worked through early stages of the pandemic with CVC to fast-track the production of vaccine prototypes that CVC took into pre-clinical testing. Scion’s team designed fermentation techniques to produce vaccine material, cultivating it in fermenters before purifying it for further testing offshore. Scion’s resources and expertise working with PHA-producing bacteria, combined with the ability to work flexibly in the face of a global health challenge, was critical to CVC achieving proof of concept for their strategy.

Scion team members included Taryn Saggese, Mark West, Alyesha Candy, David Hooks, Diahanna O’Callahan, Christophe Collet, Sumanth Ranganathan, and Gareth Lloyd-Jones.

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.