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Ovita research consortium takes positive new step

3 March 2006
Media Statement

Ovita research consortium takes positive new step

The Foundation for Research Science and Technology (the Foundation) is strongly supportive of the creation of a number of new entities out of the Ovita research consortium to enhance commercialisation of the consortium’s science.

Ovita, made up of Meat & Wool New Zealand, Wool Equities Ltd and AgResearch Ltd, manages a $90 million investment into biotechnology research focusing on sheep biology, physiology and genome.

The consortium is halfway through a five year research contract with the Foundation worth $8 million a year including GST.

Foundation Chief Executive Murray Bain says the separation of these business streams is a logical development and a very positive outcome from the initial consortium structure.

“To date Ovita has launched five products on the market and filed nine new patent applications,” he says. “The new commercialisation vehicles will help ensure the continuation of such results, and deliver benefit to shareholders and stakeholders through continued fast access to the market.”

Mr Bain says the three spinout business streams will be owned by the Ovita partners, and the ongoing research work in which the Foundation is investing will now be carried out by the consortium Ovita Discovery (a joint venture between AgResearch and Meat and Wool New Zealand) and by AgResearch.

Wool Equities will own 74.9% of a company commercialising leads in muscle growth and development, Meat and Wool NZ will own 74.9% of Catapult, a genes and diagnostic business providing services to sheep farmers, with AgResearch holding 25.1% in each case. The three parties will also jointly own commercial leads in the parasite area.

Wool Equities Chief Executive Mark O’Grady was involved in the original set up of Ovita some four years ago, and says it’s fantastic to see their original vision coming to fruition.

“A number of the original research programmes have advanced to the commercialisation phase. As a technology investment company, Wool Equities is delighted to have the opportunity to focus on these programmes and take them through that process.”

AgResearch Science and Technology General Manager Dr Jimmy Suttie says that the products developed by the Ovita consortium are of great benefit to New Zealand’s sheep industry.

"Sheep farmers made a bold step in investing reserves in sheep genomic science for the long term benefit of their industry. They are entitled to be satisfied with the success of Ovita and the strong opportunities that have been generated in a reasonably short period of time. Delivery of genetic services will continue to grow under the new expanded business."

Meat and Wool New Zealand Chief Executive Mark Jeffries says products the Ovita consortium has helped develop include parasite control and discovery, and technologies to improve the genetic potential of the New Zealand sheep flock.

“The Ovita consortium has generated valuable product leads and innovations for future generations of sheep farmers. While there are changes in Ovita, Meat and Wool New Zealand will continue to invest on behalf of the sheep industry into areas focused on products and services that benefit the sector directly.”

ENDS

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