Synthetic foods to have ‘major impact’ within 10 to 15 years – Sir Peter Gluckman

New Zealand may need to reconsider its approach to genetically modified crops to respond to the economic threat presented by synthetic milk and meat, the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser, Sir Peter Gluckman, has suggested.

Gluckman told the NZBio biotechnology conference in Wellington that great strides were being made commercialising artificial milk and meat, which usually rely on genetically modified (GM) ingredients to enhance their taste or texture.

He thought most milk sold worldwide in 20 to 25 years could be synthetic, though it might be “some time” before scientists could create a T-bone steak.

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Entries closing soon for the Value of Medicines Award 2017

Only 2 weeks until entries close for the Value of Medicines Award 2017. The national award is open to any researchers, professors, clinicians, students or academics that have completed research in this area in the last 24 months.

Key details of this year’s award are:

  • The application process has been simplified so it is quick and straightforward.
  • The 2017 winner will receive $20,000 to further their research,
  • The 2017 winner will have return flights and accommodation in Wellington for the award function evening at Parliament.
  • The opportunity to have your research recognised by key politicians along with the pharmaceutical and health sector.

This award recognises research that improves the understanding, effectiveness or safety of the use of medicines in New Zealand. Please submit your application now before entries close on the 6th October 2017.

To apply visit the Value of Medicines Award page on the Medicines New Zealand website

Please pass this on to anyone, who you think, would be suitable to apply.

Kiwi scientists to make Star Trek gadget a reality

A handheld gadget used to scan for diseases in the sci-fi series Star Trek could soon become reality, with a new Kiwi study targeting our high rates of skin cancer.

In New Zealand, where skin cancer rates are four times that of the UK and US, one person dies from the disease each day on average.

While five-year survival rates for patients diagnosed early was around 98 per cent, this dropped sharply to just 16 per cent for advanced cases, making early diagnosis critical.

A group of researchers have now conceived a smarter, faster way to diagnose suspicious lesions.

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New Zealand-UK ALGAL Biotechnology Workshop Report

The workshop brought together algal researchers and industry representatives from New Zealand and UK to discuss progress and opportunities in the exploitation of microalgae, particularly as feedstock for aquaculture and as sustainable sources of novel bio-products.

The UK delegation included six leading academics, together with representatives of four SMEs from the algal biotech sector: namely, Varicon Aqua, TeeGene Ltd, Greenskill Ltd and Algenuity. Approximate 20 NZ delegates joined the workshop and comprised algal researchers from the Cawthron Institute, several NZ universities, and biotech companies in the Nelson region. We were also honoured to be joined by Min Sung Park, a world authority on algal biotechnology and Distinguished Professor at the Centre for Microalgal Biotechnology and Biofuels, Institute of Hydrobiology, Wuhan, China.

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Impossible Foods opens new Oakland facility

Today marks the opening of Impossible Foods’ new East Oakland plant, meaning that the cult veggie burger that San Francisco diners have lined up to taste will soon make its way to hundreds of restaurants nationwide.

The company estimates that the new Oakland plant will be able to produce 1 million pounds of plant-based meat per month when running at full capacity, which it says is enough to enough to supply 1,000 restaurants. It also claims to be working on other plant-based meat and dairy substitutes.

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GapSummit, Washington DC, July 2017

GapSummit is Global Biotech Revolution’s (GBR) international and intergenerational leadership summit in biotechnology. Callaghan Innovation’s Max Thompson attended as one of 100 young leaders of tomorrow selected from 40+ countries to engage with more than 30 international speakers and leaders in the life sciences industry on the most pressing challenges and gaps in the bioeconomy.

Part one of his two-part blog series will explore the capability challenges facing biotech today.

Biotechnology is one of the game-changing technology platforms that will be central to addressing many of the world’s current and future problems – in health, medicine, agriculture and environment. Already biomedical advances are responsible for half of all economic growth since 1960, and will continue to be a driving force in global economic growth. In New Zealand, Biotechnology (alongside Digital) is the largest grouping in the next wave of high-technology startup companies emerging from Callaghan Innovation’s technology incubator programme. (See Kimberlee Jordan’s recent blog series for more).

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Sector not prepared for technical disruption

A new agrifood sector report has found that New Zealand farmers have been quick to adopt smart farming techniques, but few are preparing for major technological disruption.

The report, funded through Microsoft’s Academic Programs initiative and prepared by researchers from the Massey Business School, examined the impact of cloud computing and other potentially disruptive technologies on the sector.

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Giving the future of healthcare a boost

Current healthcare trends would be witnessing more changes (or disruptions) as the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) takes effect worldwide.

The looming 4IR will see AI (Artificial Intelligence) playing a major role in providing more efficient healthcare services.

At Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), researchers at the Institute for Molecular Medicine (INFORMM) have been ‘tinkering’ with biotechnology and genetic engineering, synergising the two in looking for solutions to healthcare and wellness issues. Genetic ‘editing’ is poised to be utilised for greater effect in enhancing the standards of health and wellbeing in communities.

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Precision Driven Health Finalist in NZ Innovation Awards

Precision Driven Health (PDH) is a seven-year NZ$38m research partnership aimed at improving health outcomes through data science. The partnership centres around the international movement towards precision medicine, the growing body of international research that is identifying and enabling the capture and analysis of the big data that will facilitate healthcare to be tailored to the individual.

The NZ Innovation Awards are intended to give “smart, innovative NZ individuals and businesses a platform to be recognised and celebrated”. PDH has been named as a finalist in the Health & Science category – where innovators whose products, services or research are focused on developing innovation to solve problems or make improvements in human health, animal health, bioscience, medical research, general science, and molecular research. Evaluators are looking for innovations that are based on new technology or new ways of applying technology, science development or commercialisation of products or services.

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Kiwi firm Allbirds raises almost $40 million

Allbirds, a New Zealand merino footwear label has raised another $24 million in funding after raising almost $10 million last year. This new capital investment brings the company’s total investment since it was launched in 2015 to $38.4 million. Allbirds was co-founded by former Wellington Phoenix Captain and All Whites Vice-Captain Tim Brown, along with Biotech Engineer Joey Zwillinger. Over two years, the pair created a textile suitable for shoes using superfine merino wool with a vegetable-oil based polyurethane insole before raising an initial US$2.7m to launch in New Zealand and the US. Allbirds has since grown to have 50 employees, and the funds will be used to continue research and development into new and sustainable materials as well as continuing international expansion.

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