Study: GM potato’s health benefits trump biotech fears

A new study by Iowa State University researchers suggests the potential health benefits of J.R. Simplot’s genetically engineered Innate potato may outweigh consumer concerns about biotechnology.

The first generation of Innate spuds obtained USDA approval on Nov. 10. It was developed with traits including non-browning, reduced bruising and about 70 percent less acrylamide — a chemical formed when certain foods are fried or baked above 250 degrees that laboratory testing shows could contribute to cancer.

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Strategic refresh of Health Research Council underway

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and Ministry of Health are jointly conducting a strategic refresh of the Health Research Council (HRC).

The exercise was announced by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce and Health Minister Jonathan Coleman this week and will look at ways the government can maximise the contribution of HRC in line with broader health and economic goals.

The strategic refresh will have particular focus on optimising the relevance, efficiency, effectiveness and impact of the HRC. It will examine:

  • The balance between health and economic priorities, the relevance of the research to broader government objectives and New Zealand’s unique demographic structure
  • The alignment between the HRC and other funding relevant to health research
  • HRC’s priority setting and funding processes
  • The governance arrangements for the HRC
  • The balance and type of research funded
  • The uptake and commercialisation of health research

Over the next month, Ministry officials will be meet with a range of stakeholders such as medical and health researchers, District Health Boards, clinicians, medical technology, pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms, Māori and Pacific stakeholders, and other funding agencies to seek feedback on the HRC. The refresh findings are expected to be reported to Ministers in June.

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Novartis wins first FDA approval of biosimilar drug

The United States opened the door to cheaper biotech drugs Friday, accepting a biosimilar cancer drug made by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved Zarxio, made by Novartis US-based unit Sandoz, the first biosimilar drug to win government approval in the country.

The FDA said Zarxio was highly similar in terms of safety and effectiveness to Amgen’s Neupogen, a biotech drug used to treat low amounts of certain white blood cells that often follow cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.

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Crowdfunding launch for cystic fibrosis drug developer

The equity crowdfunding run in New Zealand is gathering steam, with yet another company launching a campaign today. This time it is a local drug developer, which may have a treatment for cystic fibrosis sufferers.

Breathe Easy Therapeutics, an Auckland-based medicine company, is launching its campaign at midday with Snowball Effect, to raise the final $500,000 (minimum investment $1000) needed to start a two-phase clinical trial for Citramel, which could help the 75,000 people worldwide with cystic fibrosis.

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2015 applications are now open

Applications are now open for the 2015 L’Oréal Australia & New Zealand For Women in Science Fellowships.

The Fellowships are intended to help early-career female scientists consolidate their careers and rise to leadership positions in science.

This year there are four Fellowships:

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China’s scientists must engage the public on GM

The country’s shifting stance on genetic modification for crops needs the support of researchers to persuade a sceptical public, says Qiang Wang.

China is about to get serious on the use of genetic modification (GM). After years of uncertainty, funding cuts and public arguments, the country’s central government has issued a clear edict: China needs GM, and it will work to become a world leader in the development and application of the technology.

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MBIE welcomes launch of new tool to fight cattle disease

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) congratulates the Johne’s Disease Research Consortium (JDRC) on the launch of its new toolbox, via its partner DairyNZ, which will help farmers tackle Johne’s Disease – a bacterial infection found in cattle in New Zealand.

The JDRC Consortium was formed in 2008, with the goal of reducing the incidence of Johne’s Disease on New Zealand farms. MBIE has invested a total of $5.5 million in JDRC over eight years through its Research Partnership scheme.

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Q-fly, scientists on screen and fluoride study questioned

Fruit fly days numbered
The number of invasive Queensland fruit flies detected in Auckland continues grow, but experts are confident the insects won’t gain a foothold in the city.
The latest update from the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) reports that a total of eight adult Queensland fruit flies have been captured in Auckland. So far, DNA testing has shown all the flies are genetically similar, suggesting they are most likely dealing with a single incursion.

Also know as Q-fly, the species can infest more than 100 kinds of fruit and vegetables and if a breeding population became established in New Zealand it could have significant impact on the horticultural industry.

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Billion-Dollar Health Startups

The WSJ’s Billion Dollar Startup Club has identified 73 private companies that have been valued at $1 billion or more by venture capitalists. Here are profiles of two members of the club. Explore the full list at wsj.com/billionclub.

Latest valuation: $1.1 billion

Total equity funding: $354 million

Location: Redwood City, Calif.

Founded: 2001

CEO: Andrew Thompson

In the future, tiny computer chips no bigger than grains of sand will be embedded in prescription pills that inform doctors when patients have taken their medications.

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