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Scion wins "Biotechnology of the Year" award

Media release: September 15 2016

Solving sticky problem earns big bio kudos
Auckland New Zealand September 15 2016: Scientists at Scion have solved a growing environmental problem for wood panel manufacturers.

Warren Grigsby and his team have developed the world’s first wood panel resins (glue) using biobased ingredients.

That solution has earned the team the “Biotechnology of the Year” award at NZBIO’s annual conference in Auckland.

When Scion, the Crown Research Institute that specialises in science around forestry, wood products and bio materials, learned the level of formaldehyde emissions from wood panels were being regulated lower in countries like Japan, the United States and in the European Union, with New Zealand following suit, it looked to biotechnology to find ways of reducing the emissions.

Wood panel resins (glues) are traditionally made with formaldehyde and urea or phenol from petroleum based precursors. The Scion team developed a biobased resin replacement that gives off less formaldehyde emissions than natural wood.

Trademarked and patented, the technology now has a family of formulations applicable to different wood panels such as plywood, particleboard and MDF. The water-based product has been trialled successfully at two plywood/LVL mills in New Zealand.

Dr Will Barker, chief executive of NZBIO, says the technology is a game changer for wood panel manufacturers and is now attracting a lot of international interest.

NZBIOs also paid tribute to Margot Bethell and Andrew Kelly, who received Bioscience Awards for their lifetime achievements.

Margot Bethell is well known as the former programme director of the Bioscience Enterprise programme at the University of Auckland – a multidisciplinary science, business and law degree, with a core focus on the commercialisation of science. She is now co-founder and executive director of BioPacific Partners, which works with global partners to help connect them with Australian and New Zealand innovations from the region’s world-class science in food, health and agriculture.

Dr Andrew Kelly is also a co-founder and executive director of BioPacific. During his career he has led three separate research institutes during the 1990s – the Pastoral and Veterinary Institute, the Institute of Sustainable Agriculture and Invermay Research Centre. In the early 2000s Andrew led product development for AgResearch, engaging with start-ups and also fund-raising.

Andrew co-founded BioPacificVentures in 2005. It was the first specialist venture fund focused on food, agriculture and health in Australia and New Zealand, which he led for 10 years prior to co-founding BioPacific.

Dr Barker says as well as contributing to the wider New Zealand bioscience ecosystem and significantly assisting with commercial success in the industry, the pair has supported and encouraged the next generation of bioscience leaders.

One of those young New Zealand bioscientists, Dr Francis Hunter, was selected as “Young Bioscientist of the Year”. Only 18 months after finishing his PhD, Dr Hunter has already attracted $600,000 to research cancer therapies.

He co-founded Mesopharm Therapeutics, a co-operation between scientists from Stanford University (USA), University of Auckland and University Medical Center Utrecht (Netherlands), which reflects the power of multidisciplinary and global collaboration. The team aims revolutionize cancer therapies by combining state-of-the-art therapeutics and theranostics, first targeting breast cancer.

Dr Hunter has also won international awards including the Merck Serono Innovation Cup, and as part of the Breast Cancer Startup Challenge and OneStart. He is the first NZ scientist to be selected for a three-year term on the Associate Member Council of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

ends

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