Peter Jackson eyes up opportunities in leading edge food business

After conquering the movie industry, Sir Peter Jackson is now focusing on the plant-based protein business.

Earlier this year he and director James Cameron set up a company called PBT New Zealand, standing for plant-based technology. Both have been tight-lipped over what they intend to achieve.

Asked if the company’s initials related to plant-based technology, chief executive of the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR), Nick Pyke, responded: “Yes. We’ve got some projects going with them.”

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Fonterra confident dairy will always trump synthetic alternatives

Fonterra Cooperative Group is confident the complexity of cow milk will always trump plant-based alternatives, which the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser Peter Gluckman sees as posing an “existential threat” to the country’s economic fortunes.

Gluckman threw down the gauntlet in a keynote speech to the annual NZBIO conference in Wellington yesterday, saying there was a growing consumer appetite around the world for synthetic alternatives to meat and milk, including in the all-important Asian market, with plant-based foods now crossing the taste and texture threshold and offering a much smaller environmental impact than food derived from pastoral farming.

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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
Email: [email protected]


Felicity Anderson
Trio Communications
Tel: +64 21 22 40 520
Email: [email protected]

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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