American Chamber of Commerce in New Zealand Inc – Awards 2015

Auckland – The American Chamber of Commerce is delighted to announce the launch of the 2015 AmCham – DHL Express Success & Innovation Awards, held in conjunction with Hawaiian Airlines. The awards celebrate business achievement between New Zealand and the United States.

Two-way trade between New Zealand and the USA hit a new high in the last year of $11.22 billion, an increase of 29.81% on 2014 and accounts for 11.2% per cent of New Zealand’s total earnings from overseas trade.

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Xero is New Zealand’s Hi-Tech Company of the Year

Xero takes the the top prize in the 2015 Hi-Tech Awards – the PwC Hi-Tech Company of the Year.

“It takes continuity of performance over more than a single year to earn this award,” says Wayne Norrie, chair of the Hi-Tech Trust, as the winners are announced at a gala dinner in Wellington.

“The company evidences superb operational efficiency, planning a new version of its software each week, with 400 releases in 2014,” says Norrie. “Development of new features follows a tried and true winning behaviour: give your customers what they request. Lastly, the open API’s for go-to-market through the accountancy channel is brilliant.”

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Investing in biotech and pharma

Biotechnology and pharmaceuticals are probably the most seductive and exciting sectors of the market to invest in. Not only can investors have the warm and fuzzy feeling that they are helping humanity (an emotion not readily generated by buying shares in Westpac or BHP), but when drugs or devices are developed and successfully adopted, it can be very profitable. Furthermore healthcare as a sector exhibits little correlation with Chinese growth, the health of the domestic economy or US interest rates and has some powerful demographic tailwinds.

It can be volatile, too. Recently, for example, Sirtex (STX) announced that trials of its eagerly awaited SIRFLOX liver cancer treatment had failed to show a statistically significant increase in survival in patients with liver cancer, though the company noted that liver cancer ultimately has a 90% level of morbidity. The announcement of this news wiped $1 billion off Sirtex’s market cap as the stock fell 55%.

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Pasture pest under probe

Fresh research by AgResearch scientists will help unlock mysteries about a serious West Coast agricultural pest and allow farmers to make better management decisions and potentially save money.

Porina caterpillars are grazers that can reduce the long term quality and production of pasture, but AgResearch senior scientist Sarah Mansfield says little is known about the pest’s specific impact on the West Coast.

Now, research during a three year $300,000 Sustainable Farming Fund project will allow farmers to better understand how to monitor for the pest and then kill them more efficiently and cost effectively.

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NZ biotech firm makes giant strides in cancer fight

A privately owned New Zealand biotech company has made huge progress in developing a replacement for the PSA prostate cancer test.

At present, there are 100 million PSA tests conducted worldwide each year but the test reliability suffers from false negative and false positive results with PSA testing costing global health systems around US$2 billion annually.

Caldera Ltd was established in 2010 as a molecular diagnostic development company. Prostate cancer is its first target, though the current development work has the potential, eventually, to target all cancers.

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GM foods: India shouldn’t give in to anti-science dissent industry

With the European Union expected to approve import of 17 more genetically-modified food products by the end of May, opponents in India like Greenpeace will have a weaker case to stall permission for commercial cultivation of GM crops. But they are unlikely to give up their resistance.

Unless the courts come to its rescue, Greenpeace’s very existence in India has come under a cloud. The government has choked the flow of foreign funds to the NGO, terming it a threat to the nation’s economic security. The government has found its habit of stirring up opposition to coal mining and nuclear energy annoying.

India has only one approved BT crop, cotton, which it authorised in 2002. The EU already imports 58 GM products, including US maize, cotton, soyabean and sugarbeet. A few more on the menu are unlikely to convince Greenpeace to change its pet peeve.

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Rockit taking second bite to fund growth

The Rockit apple, an export success largely funded by Tauranga Enterprise Angels investors, has launched the second phase of its 2014-15 financing round.

It seeks a further $3 million to fund new hectarage and market development.

Stage one of Rockit Orchard No2 Limited Partnership (ROP2) last year was over-subscribed, raising $3.8 million of the $6.8 million amount sought, said Steve Saunders, a director of Havelock North Fruit Company (HNFC), which controls the cultivar. The Rockit is a golf ball-sized apple marketed in a tube format as a high-end convenience snack.

“We are under budget and ahead of our targets in terms of production,” Mr Saunders told Enterprise Angels members at their bi-monthly meeting on Tuesday.

The initial limited partnership in 2012 established 65.9ha of Rockit plantings and a further 28ha had been developed with the first tranche of the second partnership, he said.

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China Steel Corp green-lights LanzaTech’s first commercial plant

China Steel Corporation, Taiwan’s largest integrated steelmaker, has given formal approval for a US$46 million investment in a commercial scale ethanol facility developed by New Zealand-founded LanzaTech.

The CSC board decision follows a successful pilot of the carbon recycling platform at the White Biotech demonstration plant in Kaohsiung, using steel mill off gases for ethanol production.

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Hi-tech cattle stall aims for better herds

Calfsmart is the brainchild of Ben Neal, a 35-year-old mechanical engineer who grew up on a dairy farm in Dannevirke.

After discovering shortfalls in calf-feeding operations while on holiday in Denmark seven years ago, Neal set about producing a “more efficient system” to help New Zealand’s dairy sector rear their calves more successfully.

“Due to my dairy background I was keen to learn how the industry was working over there. I was seeing these European products being imported into New Zealand in an attempt to fit New Zealand farming practices – which they did not do well.”

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Kiwi cancer drug rescued

A promising lung cancer drug born of Daffodil Day funding has been rescued by a new American sponsor after a potentially disastrous finding of “unacceptable toxicity” in some patients.

Called TH-4000, the drug was invented by Dr Adam Patterson and Dr Jeff Smaill of the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre and the Maurice Wilkins Centre at Auckland University. It becomes active only in the hypoxic parts of tumours, the zones without oxygen.

In development for a decade, the drug previously known as PR610 was first commercialised by the university in a deal with companies in Japan and the United States.

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