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Minister unveils new biotech magazine


Minister unveils new biotech magazine

Biotech Unlimited launches to industry fanfare

…A Canterbury scientist is abused for NOT putting toad genes into spuds…

…Auckland scientists who have patented the odour of the “little green apple”…

…Waikato cows that produce human protein…

Just some of the curious and controversial stories in the first issue of new science and business magazine, Biotech Unlimited.

The new title, the first of its kind in New Zealand, hits the streets today and was launched by the Minister for Research, Science and Technology Pete Hodgson.

Speaking before a gathering of 120 scientists, business leaders and legal and IT professionals on Thursday, Hodgson welcomed the launch of Biotech Unlimited, saying it’s the sort of development the government is hoping will encourage growth in the biotech sector. “Which is something that’s not just good for those in sector, but is really important for New Zealand,” he says. He congratulated Unlimited on taking the bold step into a controversial area.

Biotech Unlimited is a new “magazine-within-a-magazine”, published quarterly with Unlimited, New Zealand’s leading business magazine.

The new title will focus on the business of New Zealand bio-sciences and include profiles of scientists and their work, stories about venture capital, legal matters, science and IT technology developments and management issues. Also included are “cheat sheets”, such as a “Dummies Guide to GM” for non-science readers.

“I’m hoping that Biotech Unlimited will be adopted by the science community but also by the general business reader who wants to understand the science and business of this hot new sector,” says Vincent Heeringa, publisher and founding editor.

Sponsorship model

In another novel move, the first year of the magazine is funded by sponsorship from New Zealand’s leading commercial law firm Bell Gully, international IT firm SolNet/Sun and government agency Industry New Zealand.

Explaining the firm’s involvement with the title, Bell Gully CEO Maggie Callicrate said, “By helping Biotech Unlimited create a forum for science and business, we can share our legal expertise with a wider audience and make a practical contribution to the future growth of science, technology and business in New Zealand.”

Explaining SolNet’s involvement, managing director Mark Botherway says, "As researchers in New Zealand and around the globe push the boundaries of natural science in exploring genetic, proteomic and other data, Sun and SolNet continue to aggressively build the computational infrastructure required to support their work. Through collaboration with leading biotech, pharmaceutical and consultancy companies, as well as with academic institutions and IT partners, Sun and SolNet are proud to provide solutions that span the entire life sciences value chain."

Clarifying the role of sponsors, Vincent Heeringa says the magazine editorial is unaffected by the deals. “A similar relationship exists between advertisers and the magazine: there is no influence on editorial independence.” The sponsorship consists of exclusivity of advertiser and added benefits such as brand/logo presence, access to the customer database and copies of the finished magazine.”

In this issue of Biotech Unlimited:

· Scientists at an Auckland lab have patented the odours of many different fruits for use in the $US12 billion flavours industry. Once identified and patented, the odours can be farmed and sold for flavouring beers or cheeses, or even creating for fragrances;

· The Canterbury scientist, whose crop was destroyed by anti-GE protestors for allegedly putting toad genes into potatoes, never actually touched a toad nor its genes nor put any toad genes in the spud! Crop & Food’s Tony Conor reveals that the potatoes were indeed genetically modified but using a piece of entirely synthetic or custom-made DNA.

· It’s about 30 times times harder to raise money in New Zealand for biotech ventures than in the United States. Quoting from an Australian study, the magazine reveals that a Kiwi or Australian biotech venture will attract 30 times more money in the US than down under. Aussie and Kiwi biotechnicians and their governments need to get a lot smarter about how they run their biotech sectors, according to the venture capital experts quoted in the magazine.

· A Crown Research Institute is on the cusp of creating a potential multimillion, if not billion dollar, protein farm industry using transgenic cows. The story reveals that with a herd of just 50 genetically modified cows, the organisation can generate revenues of between $US40 million to $US60 million producing human protein for use in the human therapeutics market.

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