2017 Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize winner Dr Carla Meledandri

A University of Otago scientist who is at the forefront of developing applications from tiny science to power a new technology sector has won the 2017 Prime Minister’s MacDiarmid Emerging Scientist Prize.

American-born Dr Carla Meledandri, who credits some of her success to the collaborative environment that flourishes in New Zealand’s science sector, is exploring ways to solve problems using ultra-small materials that look, act and react differently when they are reduced to the nano-scale.

Early applications of her award-winning science include silver nanoparticles to treat and prevent dental disease and finding ways to store and use clean energy technologies that have the potential to replace fossil fuels.

View YouTube clip

Australia’s growing support for women in Life Sciences

In Life Sciences, there is, regrettably, a glass ceiling. If you are involved in the Life Sciences in any country where the sector is strong, you’ll have noticed a push in recent years to increase the number of leadership positions that are held by women. Usually there’s regular networking events for women in all the biotech hubs around the country, and if you attend a conference there’ll likely be a booth for the national ‘Women in Biotech’ organisation. And no wonder. Emma Walmsley may have become the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline in 2017, putting a woman in charge of the world’s eighth-largest pharmaceutical company, but only three other pharma companies in the Top 50 globally have a female in the top job. Meanwhile, a mere 5.7% of companies currently represented in the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index – the generally accepted benchmark for the leading biotech and medical device companies globally – have a female CEO. That’s right, 5.7%, which is amazing when you consider that close to 40% of those companies are headquartered in two ostensibly liberal places – the San Francisco Bay Area in California and the Boston-Cambridge axis in Massachusetts. Indeed, the current picture could be said to be even bleaker for women who aspire to global leadership in our sector. Of the three other women beside Emma Walmsley in peak leadership positions at Big Pharma, two of them – Menarini’s Lucia Aleotti and Lupin’s Vinita Gupta – are in their jobs in part because they are daughters of the respective founders. That doesn’t diminish the achievements or qualifications of these women in any way, but it makes you wonder if a female non-family member would have a chance. As for the 149 Nasdaq Biotechnology Index companies that are not one of the Top 50 Pharma companies (ie excluding Mylan, run by Heather Bresch, and other established companies like Amgen, Gilead and Celgene), the eight companies with female CEOs only represent 3.5% of the total combined market capitalisation of the 149. Why is it so? Well, science has always been something of a boy’s club, as evidenced by the fact that, of the 130 living Nobel laureates who have won the Prize for either Medicine or Chemistry (click here), 122 are men and only 8 are women*. Combine that with male dominance of venture capital when the biotech industry was getting started in the 1970s and 1980s and it’s not particularly surprising that women remain under-represented even in the much more mature 2010s.

Read more

Going for the Gold! Mint Innovation’s microbes and technology recover gold

With the XXIII Olympic Winter Games starting and a record-breaking 102 gold medals up for grabs this year, it got us thinking about medals…and metals in general. With so many uses from giving them as awards for super athletes, to using them in currency, trade markets, and more recently, electronics, it seems like the demand for precious metals isn’t going anywhere, but the supply is limited, even if the U.S. Geological Survey estimates there are 52,000 tons of minable gold still in the ground.

Especially as more and more gold is moving from the traditional jewelry and currency markets to the technology and electronics industries, less of it is being recycled and reused due to the tiny amounts often found in electronics that make it very difficult to extract and recycle.

Read more

Blood test could spot Alzheimer’s years before symptoms appear

A new diagnostic test using a few drops of blood could be used detect Alzheimer’s disease years before symptoms begin to show.

By 2050 more than 170,000 New Zealanders are forecast to have dementia – the majority of which will be Alzheimer’s.

Early intervention is the best way to treat the disease, but this is almost impossible as it cannot be diagnosed until symptoms such as memory loss appear.

Read more

NEW ZEALANDER OF THE YEAR FINALISTS ANNOUNCED

The New Zealander of the Year Awards Office is pleased to announce the three finalists being considered for the title of 2018 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

They are…..

Kristine Bartlett: Pay equity campaigner (Lower Hutt)
Mike King: Mental health advocate (Auckland)
Dr Siouxsie Wiles: Microbiologist and researcher (Auckland)

Read more

The booming market of bovine-based pharmaceuticals

A pericardium looks more like a cheese slice than high-value biomaterial suitable for repairing human hearts.

This thin, light, white sheet of collagen – sourced from New Zealand cattle – is fast becoming one of the most sought-after products in the increasingly lucrative biomedical industry.

This thin sac sits around the beating heart of every one of New Zealand’s 10.4 million beef and dairy cattle.

Read more

Gene-editing: how it could be used in NZ

Kiwis are being urged to have their say on gene-editing technologies, as our leading body for science today sets out how they could be used to combat pests or replace faulty genes.

Gene editing has been at the centre of a fast-moving global revolution, fuelled by advances such as the CRISPR-Cas system that’s effectively given scientists “molecular scissors” to snip and splice DNA.

Read more

$242,000 to Tairāwhiti Community Group for Erosion Control

A Tairāwhiti group looking to optimise the sustainable growth and harvest of Kānuka is set to receive up to $242,000 from the Ministry for Primary Industries for its erosion control benefits.

Hikurangi Bioactives Limited Partnership, a majority community-owned charitable company, is looking to identify optimal growing and sustainable harvesting techniques for bioactive extracts from existing mature Kānuka strands grown in and around Ruatoria.

Read more