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Mallard - Biotechnology the rising star of NZ

27 February 2006

Hon Trevor Mallard - Speech Notes

Biotechnology the rising star of New Zealand

Speech to the NZBio Distinguished and Emerging Biotechnologist Awards Dinner, Auckland War Museum

A few years ago those in the fields of arts and culture used to say they wished that New Zealanders would view our artists with as much respect as they did our sportspeople.

Look at how that's changed. Peter Jackson and other filmmakers like Andrew Adamson and Niki Caro as well as actors, fashion designers and musicians have a much greater presence in our culture and are now held in high esteem.

It's my wish that when we look back in five years we'll be also applauding the rising stars of our economy - that those in the biotechnology sector and our other stars in science and business will be viewed by kiwis around the country with the same awe, respect and immense pride as our film and arts celebrities.

More than 150 years of applying cutting-edge science to livestock and plants today has given New Zealand one of the world’s most innovative and fast growing biotechnology industries with applications across the board in all fields of endeavour – agricultural, industrial, environmental and biomedical.

There is much for New Zealanders to be proud of in this area. The tradition of excellence established by the likes of Earnest Rutherford and Maurice Wilkins is today continued by world-class biotechnologists who merge science and business.

For instance, isn't it great that Dr Peter Shepherd, an expatriate New Zealander who received the London Young Biotechnology Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2002, relocated his company, Symansis Ltd, from the United Kingdom to New Zealand last year.

Biotechnology is very important to New Zealand as our government works with business to transform our economy into a high value high-income export-led economy, building on our talents for innovation and creativity.

Today New Zealand’s biotechnology strengths are in the areas of large animal-based technologies, plant-based biotechnologies, biomedical science and drug discovery, bioprocessing and biomanufacturing, biocontrol, biosecurity, bioremediation, and innovative foods and health.

In 2004, income from biotechnology grew 42 per cent compared with 2003. New Zealand biotechnology organisations were granted 348 biotech-related patents in the five years to 2004, an increase of more than 120 per cent over the previous five years.

Exports of biotechnology goods, services, processes, and knowledge for the 2004 financial year were valued at $108 million. Biotechnology companies export to more than 60 countries, with major export markets in the United States, Europe and Australia.

Annual export earnings are expected to reach $NZ1 billion by 2013.
The vision for the future of the biotechnology industry comes not from the government but from industry itself. In 2003 the Biotechnology Taskforce, a panel of industry leaders, made recommendations which our government is committed to following.

Those recommendations include

- a 10 year growth plan aimed at tripling the number of organisations involved in biotechnology to more than 1,000 and increasing biotech industry employment more than four-fold to 18,000;

- increasing five-fold the number of core biotechnology companies to more than 200;

- and quadrupling export earnings from biotech to more than $647 million per annum.

We will continue our support for NZBio as it plays a key role in facilitating, assisting, and promoting growth of New Zealand biotechnology companies.

Government support for the biotechnology sector has been underpinned by an increase in funding over the last few years.

Each year New Zealand allocates an estimated $175 million in public funds for biotechnology research. This is approximately 15 per cent of the total government research and development budget allocation.

NZTE has invested approx $12 million in the commercialisation of biotech in the
last year.

New Zealand companies need to better understand the global value chain and ensure that they are connected where it matters, where they can make a difference - from research to business partnerships.

It is pleasing to see the continued interest from both sides of the Tasman in the Australia New Zealand Biotechnology Partnership Fund designed to support joint ventures between Australian and New Zealand companies and accelerate trans-Tasman biotechnology industry collaboration.

Developing greater regional critical mass will give Australian and New Zealand biotech companies better access to global market opportunities.

NZTE project managed the New Zealand pavilion and delegation at Bio 2005, co-located with Australia, and 45 New Zealand organisations participated.

Both the media campaign and the programme of one-on-one partner meetings with participating New Zealand biotechnology companies has paid dividends.

So far New Zealand’s attendance at Bio 2003, 2004, and 2005 is conservatively estimated to have brought another $200 million in net economic benefit to the New Zealand economy to date.

The 2005 visit was extremely successful for the New Zealand companies who attended. All companies reported direct commercial benefits including the signing of 15 contracts as a direct result of participants involvement at the event. Three hundred and sixty seven commercial leads brokered from stand presence and a further 67 contracts are currently in negotiation.

A memorandum of understanding signed with the State of Iowa is providing a bridge for New Zealand companies into North America and the professional image of New Zealand’s biotechnology sector has been raised to the extent that Bio2005 saw the first dedicated AgBio forum – something that will be part of the annual Bio programme going forward.

The government is again supporting a trade mission to Bio 2006.

As you will be aware it is the largest annual biotechnology event worldwide and is convened by US industry body bio.

Around 40 companies will participate in Bio 2006. These include Protemix, a University of Auckland spin-off company who are doing innovative work in the field of diabetes, and Procata Therapeutics. The latter was formed in 2001 and whilst still a young company is carrying out ground-breaking research in the development of cancer pro drugs.

Also involved will be Pacific Edge Biotechnology Ltd, which is another university spin-out, this time from Otago. They are currently developing novel diagnostic and therapeutic products to improve the diagnosis and management of diseases, in particular cancer.

I am confident that with these and the other leading edge New Zealand companies who will be present, Bio 2006 will prove to be even more successful than previous years.

Tonight is a celebration of this emerging, thriving industry.

It is about recognising the achievements of the industry and the future as well – recognition of both distinguished and emerging biotechnologists.

Your work underpins an industry that is of critical importance to the growth of our economy and all our aspirations for a more prosperous New Zealand.

ENDS

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