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Trans-Tasman biotech projects receive funding

12 April 2006

Trans-Tasman biotech projects receive funding

Economic Development Minister Trevor Mallard today announced $2 million in grants to the New Zealand partners in two key trans-Tasman biotechnology projects, under the Australia New Zealand Biotechnology Partnership Fund.

Trevor Mallard made the announcement in Chicago, where he is supporting New Zealand companies attending BIO2006, the world's largest annual biotechnology event.

"The $12 million Australia New Zealand Biotechnology Partnership Fund is designed to assist and accelerate collaboration between the New Zealand and Australian biotech communities. The two projects funded today, involving New Zealand companies Keratec and Livestock Improvement Corporation respectively, bring the total number of large-scale projects funded to six," Trevor Mallard said.

The Labour-led government has been targeting biotechnology, as well as information communications technology and the creative sectors as areas with high growth potential.

"It is imperative that the New Zealand biotechnology sector builds on its strong foundations as the government continues to work with business to further transform New Zealand into a high-income innovative economy.

"The world-class research and innovation coming out of New Zealand must be commercialised in a strategic way. This partnership fund assists organisations looking to work with others in the region – a region that is already the world's fifth largest biotechnology hub and that is emerging as a global player.

"This initial funding will ensure these projects grow much faster than they otherwise would and will contribute to projects of a far greater scale.

"In 2003, the private-sector Biotechnology Taskforce also identified trans-Tasman partnership as a priority. Through collaboration, New Zealand and Australia stand to make significant progress in the biotechnology field. The two projects represent opportunities for considerable growth available to New Zealand biotech companies that take a collaborative approach."

The projects are:

· In collaboration with Australian Biotechnologies, Keratec will commercialise its patented bone graft technology that helps bones to heal faster, cleaner and more naturally than existing biomaterials on the market. The technology uses Functionalized Keratin™ - a natural product extracted from wool.

The global market for bone grafts is projected to grow substantially over the next few years and the funding will help Keratec establish a significant presence in that market. The grant is worth $1 million over three years and is contingent on Keratec putting in $1 million of its own money and in securing a matching contribution of $2 million from its Australian partner Australian Biotechnologies.

· Livestock Improvement Corporation, in collaboration with Australian firm Innovative Dairy Products Pty Ltd, will use cutting edge technology to identify genetic traits in some dairy cows that give them more metabolic efficiency, which enables higher milk production. Until the genotyping technology became available in mid 2005, the costs of such a project would have been prohibitive.

The research could lead to significant increases in diary cow productivity through genetic selection. The grant is worth $1 million over three years and is contingent on Livestock Improvement Corporation putting in $1 million of its own money and in securing a matching contribution of $2 million from its Australian partner Innovative Dairy Products Pty Ltd.

Under the fund, grants are made to New Zealand organisations participating in the approved projects with funding tied to project work. At this stage, the grants are conditional on satisfaction of certain conditions and agreement on project milestones and eligible costs.

ENDS

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