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Leading Australian Expert Positive About NZ Biotec

Leading Australian Expert Positive About Nz Biotech

New Zealand and Queensland should work together to take advantage of global opportunities in biotechnology, according to a report prepared for Industry New Zealand by leading Australian biotechnology specialist, Professor Peter Andrews.

Professor Andrews’ report - ‘Biotechnology collaboration between New Zealand and Queensland - Opportunities for Growth’ – identifies key areas where New Zealand and Queensland can collaborate to create a dynamic Australasian biotechnology industry by 2010.

“Both economies have strong agricultural and food sectors, strong and complementary research strengths, competitive research and development (R & D) costs and outstanding natural resource bases.

“Between us we have all the ingredients necessary for biotechnology to make major contributions to our economies”.

The report recommends that both Queensland and New Zealand biotechnology institutions and businesses collaborate on biotechnology application development in the two key areas of agricultural biotechnology and human health applications.

“The largest single market for biotechnology-related products will continue to be human health. In 2002, global pharmaceutical sales reached US$400 billion, and were growing at 8% per annum.

“Increasing demand in the developing world and the need to find innovative ways of combating new disease strains such as SARS will ensure that growth is sustained,” said Professor Andrews.

“This means that both New Zealand and Queensland need to further develop skills and knowledge in the critical areas such as bioinformatics and drug design and development.

Agricultural biotechnology is the major area of strategic priority identified by the report.

Professor Andrews said that New Zealand and Queensland have strong agricultural histories and a good track record of research and knowledge.

“World food production has doubled since 1960 – driven by productivity gains in agriculture and food technologies.

“Globalisation and a growth of relatively affluent middle-classes in developing countries, means agricultural biotechnology is key to maximising productivity gains if we are to meet the world demand for food without damaging the environment.

“There is a real opportunity to focus and exploit the resulting critical mass internationally,” said Professor Andrews.

He admits there are fundamental challenges to overcome, particularly the gap between the business and scientific worlds.

“Our scientists have been trained to publish rather than patent and our investors have sought dividends rather than capital growth.

However, Professor Andrews thinks there is only one real threat. And that is the failure to grasp the huge range of opportunities. The report makes a number of recommendations to carry collaboration forward including jointly targeting the formation of 20 spin-off companies per annum, establishing a serious Australasian biotechnology venture capital fund and schemes to train and retain top managers.

The release of the Andrews report follows on from the launch of the Biotechnology Taskforce Report, ‘Growing the Biotechnology Sector in New Zealand – A Framework for Action’.

The Taskforce report outlined a 28-point action plan for the commercialisation of biotechnology in New Zealand, including closer working partnerships with biotechnology institutions and business in Australia, especially Queensland.

Meetings between New Zealand’s Minister for Research, Science and Technology Science Minister, Pete Hodgson and Hon Paul Lucas, Queensland’s Minister for Innovation and Information Economy and Premier Beattie of Queensland in 2002 initiated dialogue on potential collaborations.

A range of initiatives aimed at furthering the relationship have since followed, such as networking events and a trade delegation to Queensland in March of this year, led by Trade New Zealand and accompanied by Minister Pete Hodgson and Industry New Zealand’s biotechnology team.

“Our established strengths in biomedical research, agricultural and environmental applications offer us a unique opportunity to combine our talent and resources to drive effective, long-term growth in biotechnology for the benefit of both economies,” said Professor Andrews.

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