NZBIO urges Government to look again at GMO rules

Minor amendments to the rules around genetic modification just don’t go far enough says NZBIO.

Dr Will Barker, the CEO of the biotechnology industry body, says the Government needs to have a further look at the recommendations made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) late last year.

Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith announced a “minor amendment” to the rules to cover off old-technology that had not been identified in the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act (HSNO) 1996.

Dr Barker says the timing of the Government’s announcement was interesting.

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Artificial bug ‘lets scientist billionaire design new forms of life’

Bugs capable of everything from curing diseases to mopping up pollution are a step closer after scientists created an artificial lifeform in a lab.

The new bug, nicknamed Synthia 3.0, has fewer genes than any other bacterium, making it the most basic form of life.

Its creation in a Californian lab, by cowboy boot-wearing “showman scientist” Craig Venter, paves the way for bugs customised with genes that allow them to churn out clean biofuels, soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and pump out vaccines in industrial quantities.

Dr Venter said: “I think it’s the start of a new era.”

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Kiwi biotech firm seeking clearance for Zika diagnostic

Kiwi biotech firm Ubiquitome is seeking clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to secure a Zika diagnostic test before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.

The Auckland-based company has launched a crowdfunding campaign with the hopes that it will accelerate the manufacture of the FDA-authorised molecular test.

Ubiquitome founder and CEO Dr Paul Pickering says the company wants to minimise the impact of the Zika virus by making it readily available.

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Innovation Heroes – Hear Their Story

This May five of New Zealand’s most inspiring and innovative business heroes will be telling their personal stories at a series of events being held throughout the country.

Innovation Heroes is about inspiring kiwi innovators and business owners to go on their own journey of innovation, building businesses and developing new products and services that really make a difference.

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Health Canada, CFIA approve genetically engineered potato with reduced browning

TORONTO — Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have approved a genetically engineered potato for sale, said a U.S.-based company on Monday in announcing that its non-browning spuds could be in Canadian supermarkets by Thanksgiving.

J.R. Simplot Company was notified by both agencies in letters dated March 18 that it could sell its potatoes — which purportedly are less likely to bruise or turn brown when cut — to consumers or for livestock consumption.

Simplot, based in Boise, Idaho, says the Innate potato has the same nutritional composition of regular potatoes plus reduced asparagine. This amino acid found in many starchy foods produces acrylamide, suspected to be a human carcinogen. Potatoes naturally produce the chemical when they’re cooked at high temperatures above 120 C (250 F).

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Movac launches new $80m growth capital fund with NZVIF cornerstone stake

Wellington fund manager Movac has secured a cornerstone commitment of up to $20 million from the New Zealand Venture investment Fund for its new growth capital fund, for which it is aiming to raise between $80 million and $100 million.

Movac managing partner Phil McCaw, whose previous funds invested in promising companies like Trade Me, PowerbyProxi, Aroa Biosurgery and GreenButton, said the new fund will target the next generation of iconic Kiwi companies.

“Movac Fund 4 will continue the work of our previous funds.  It will be a sizable fund in the New Zealand market – at between $80 million and $100 million.  With NZVIF’s commitment, we are now raising capital from a range of private and institutional investors.

“It will be focused on ‘later stage’ companies; those that are raising growth capital in the post seed and angel investment stages, that have a team in place to grow the business, and which have the ambition and potential to scale to $100 million-plus in revenue.

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Quit job for start-up?

ENTREPRENEURS need better incentives to entice them to risk quitting their job and start a business with no income, a Queensland life-science industry conference heard on Thursday.

“From a new company perspective, somebody’s got to found (businesses) and there’s a whole bunch of personal risk,” said Sean Parsons, managing director and founder at medical diagnostics firm Ellume.

Problems of developing an industry were debated at a Life Sciences Industry in Parliament conference. Dr Parsons, whose firm is developing a test for detecting influenza, asked the 150 attendees how many would be willing to quit their work for a start-up with no wages, and only one put their hand up.

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Totara amaze

Old stumps and fence posts are the source of a powerful antimicrobial worth millions of dollars.

An antimicrobial extract from totara trees has had worldwide success, but the man behind it wants more.

Carterton businessman Doug Mende has been working for 17 years to prove the efficacy of totarol, an antimicrobial extract from totara trees that is now marketed worldwide and appears in products ranging from toothpaste to anti-acne cream.

His company, Mende Biotech, supplies the ingredient to more than 30 companies, including French cosmetic giant L’Oréal. A global consumer trend towards natural healthcare has resulted in some of his customers substantially increasing their sales, with oral care now replacing cosmetics as the biggest use of totarol.

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nnovation back on the agenda at seminar

Futuristic technologies and the latest advances in agricultural innovation will be on the agenda as world-leading experts address Australian vegetable growers at the 2016 Global Innovations in Horticulture Seminar, to be held on the Gold Coast on 23 June.

American researcher and science author Jon Entine, expert in genetic modification, will headline a stellar line up of speakers that will inspire over 100 Australian vegetable growers to embrace innovation as the industry moves towards increased mechanisation and more creative ways to reduce costs and increase profitability.

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Goats recruited in fight against cancer

New Zealand scientists may have found a cheaper way to develop expensive cancer-fighting drugs, and they’re using goats to do it.

At the AgResearch laboratories in Hamilton they’ve developed a special goat to produce human medicine.

“There’s already some human medicines on the human market that are produced in livestock animals, so it’s very close to reality,” says Dr Goetz Laible. “We just hope it’s also close to reality in New Zealand.”

They may look like ordinary goats, but some of them have been genetically modified to produce milk which contains specific antibodies.