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NZ bioscience celebrates its innovators

NZ bioscience celebrates its innovators

Aroa Biosurgery has been named as New Zealand’s Bioscience Company of the Year and AgResearch principal scientist Dr Nick Roberts as the leading Biotechnologist at the 2015 NZBIO Conference Awards at Te Papa, Wellington.

A scientist now based in New York, Dr Shivali Gulab, has been chosen as the Young Bioscientist of the Year.

Aroa Biosurgery (Aroa) is a privately held company based in Auckland, which has developed Endoform™, a novel extracellular matrix biosurgery platform for soft tissue repair and reconstruction.

Dr Will Barker, CEO of NZBIO, says Aroa is targeting the international biosurgery market with its Reinforced Bioscaffold portfolio for abdominal wall reconstructions, including complex hernia. It has already sold more than one million units of its Endoform Dermal Template™, which is used in diabetic and venous ulcers treatments, in the United States.

“Aroa delivers high quality, simple-to-use products that significantly improve healing outcomes,” Dr Barker says. “It produces a world leading biomaterial building block and has established a fully validated manufacturing facility that has the capacity to meet demand over the next four to five years.”

This year’s winners were judged by their peers at the NZBIO conference using a mobile phone app. Dr Barker says voting was tight in all three categories, which reflects the diversity of the bioscience sector in New Zealand.

Top biotechnologist Dr Nick Roberts is a principal scientist at AgResearch and is also the co-founder of Algenetix and chief scientific officer of ZeaKal, both of which belong to the San Diego based Kapyon Ventures.

At AgResearch he has used synthetic biology to develop an internationally recognised technology called “PhotoSeed™”, which increases the photosynthetic capacity of crops, delivering increases in growth, yields and stored energy in crops used for animal feeds.

The PhotoSeed technology has direct applications in ryegrass, alfalfa and soybeans. Should there be a route to market for genetically modified forages in New Zealand it is predicted the increased energy and growth rates for those crops would be transformational for the NZ pastoral industry.

The Young Scientist of the Year, Dr Shivali is the CEO of Avalia Immunotherapies (Avalia). She helped establish Avalia, which is commercialising a novel, synthetic vaccine technology – the work of Ferrier, the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and the University of Otago. The vaccine technology allows it to target a specific cancer or infectious disease. It is scalable, easily manufactured and complementary to other modes of treatment such as cancer immunotherapies.

Dr Barker says the platform is at pre-clinical stage, but Avalia’s work has been published in world leading journals, such as Nature Chemical Biology and Chemical Science, and is attracting international attention.

Earlier this year Dr Gulab was selected to participate in the prestigious NYC Entrepreneurship Lab training programme and Avalia was awarded a National & Global Innovation Award at the 2015 TechConnect World Innovation Conference.


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