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AgResearch takes commercial plunge with Celentis

October 26, 2000
AgResearch takes commercial plunge with Celentis

By Claire Grant, AgResearch

AgResearch’s science discoveries will be marketed nationally and globally by a specialised business unit known as Celentis.

AgResearch, New Zealand’s crown research company responsible for pastoral science, has just launched Celentis to commercialise AgResearch’s science and technology.

Led by General Manager John Lea, Celentis provides the business focus of AgResearch. It brings all AgResearch’s existing commercial services and products into one commercial group, and has been set up to provide management support, funding and suitable business channels for new technology coming on-stream from AgResearch’s 10 science platforms. Establishing Celentis will make it easier for New Zealand companies to work with AgResearch.

At the same time, AgResearch is announcing a major strategic alliance with the Australian-based animal health company CSL Limited, one of Australasia’s leading animal vaccine companies. CSL Limited develops, manufactures and markets pharmaceutical products of biological origin, and is Australia's largest investor in biopharmaceutical research and development.

This proposed alliance will be of significant benefit to AgResearch and to New Zealand, giving it leverage to North American and European markets, and opening major opportunities for developing new animal health products. It will immediately open up overseas distribution opportunities for AgResearch’s AgVax vaccination products, and in turn give AgVax critical mass through the sole distribution rights to CSL Limited’s products in New Zealand. AgVax and CSL Limited plan to collaborate on future R&D projects.

AgResearch Chief Executive Dr Keith Steele explained the major new business focus is aimed at ensuring science discoveries are transformed into commercial reality. “Celentis is the opportunity AgResearch needed to make sure our world-leading science is exploited to its full potential, for the benefit of all New Zealand.”

This separation of commercial and science will allow scientists to get on with what they do best – successful research. AgResearch has been responsible for several world-leading scientific discoveries over recent years, including the Inverdale sheep gene discovery earlier in the year which could lead to new human fertility treatments, and the world’s first DNA-based meat tracing system. It is also at the cutting edge of ground-breaking biotechnology research, a global trend the New Zealand pastoral industry needs to embrace to position future agricultural markets.

Celentis will give AgResearch more commercial focus by providing the resources to deliver products and technologies to the market. It’s likely there will be a substantial increase in the number of products and technologies coming on-stream over the next few years from AgResearch.

Mr Lea’s expecting this to also mean the formation of more strategic alliances with commercial partners, and some exciting announcements will be made over the next few months.

Incorporating a commercial philosophy across AgResearch’s entire operation has meant a transformation in the organisation’s approach to product development, and Mr Lea believes it will make a big difference.

To accelerate product development Celentis will not only be providing management support but will also be re-investing commercial profits back into opportunities arising from AgResearch’s science, something that has been lacking in the past. “We’re effectively closing the gap between scientific discovery and taking the product to market. There’s no doubt there’s an enormous amount of good research and development being done in New Zealand, but we’re now focusing on delivering that science. Scientists previously have done everything, from discovery to investigating the potential, to developing a product and then commercialising it. Celentis has been developed as the vehicle to do that, by effectively interfacing between business and science.”

Commercial support will be incorporated into science right from its inception. A new product management system has been developed for AgResearch, to give commercial focus and project management support for products from the new ideas stage right through to preparing products for launch. AgResearch now has 13 business support staff covering all of its campuses around New Zealand to assist scientists get their ideas out into the market place.

AgResearch’s major new commercial focus signals a brand new era for the company – one that includes a bold new look and a pioneering life sciences vision.

While AgResearch will continue its impressive tradition of strong agricultural production research, long the backbone of New Zealand’s economy, it is developing a further string to its bow to encompass global moves towards biotechnology. It has adopted a “better life sciences … better lives” philosophy to underpin this emerging research focus on life sciences.

AgResearch has been enhancing its science and commercial capabilities over the last few months as it positions itself to meet this new look.

Dr Steele is excited about the changes, and believes they will make a real difference. He is pleased the AgResearch’s scientists have taken up the challenge, positioning the company to pioneer New Zealand into a new and very different era of research and commercial focus in the new millennium.

For further information, please contact: John Lea,
Celentis General Manager, AgResearch Ruakura
Phone 07-834-6630.
Life sciences the focus for AgResearch

The 1999/2000 year was a turning point for AgResearch as it implemented new life science strategies, establishing an operating structure which focused on becoming a more powerful global life sciences company.

The completion of the mapping of the human genome in the year under review has highlighted the potential benefits that new gene technology can bring to mankind. And as research companies worldwide strive to turn this new-found knowledge into worthwhile gains, AgResearch has been striving to ensure that New Zealand keeps pace with this ever-increasing momentum in a safe, responsible scientific manner.

“We will leverage off our past knowledge, strength and experience to focus our efforts on gaining a greater understanding of life through science, and will apply this knowledge to benefit humankind,” he said.

“As an internationally-renowned organisation, AgResearch has the capabilities and the foresight to assist primary production into this new age. There are so many new possibilities for traditional agriculture. We have a responsibility to farmers and to New Zealand to look ahead, and from this insight will come new and innovative products not even dreamt of.”

Dr Steele can see many opportunities for industries which could be based on our leading-edge knowledge of biological systems combined with new knowledge in physics and chemistry - for example new biologically active health products.

“Of course some things have not changed – our research will continue to be conducted with careful regard to ethics, human and animal welfare, and environmental impact. However, the outcomes will be even more beneficial through integrated solutions, which deliver value to our customers.”

AgResearch was formed in 1992, the largest of New Zealand’s crown research institutes, as an amalgamation of MAF Technology and the DSIR. It has 835 employees, based at sites in Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wallaceville, Lincoln and Dunedin, who provide pastoral research for New Zealand.

AgResearch is proud of its past, and its contribution to the success of New Zealand as one of the world’s leading economies based on pastoral agriculture. Such fine agricultural heritage is now intrinsic to what AgResearch is today.

Now, AgResearch will be the life sciences link between that past and the better future - a future where New Zealand’s products will improve the quality of life and the environment around the world in a responsible and sustainable way.

“We have a pioneering spirit that drives us to explore new horizons in the biological sciences, while at all times supported by our strong capabilities in social, ethical and environmental fields. Our dream is to touch people’s lives even more powerfully than in the past - creating wealth for New Zealand, value for our customers and health for consumers,” Dr Steele reiterated.

“AgResearch will continue to protect and build powerful agricultural capabilities within the AgResearch Group, while developing a vibrant commercial entity.”

The new look AgResearch is giving science in New Zealand a new excitement.

For further information, please contact: Dr Keith Steele,
AgResearch Ruakura, Phone 07-834-6601

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