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Genome Pioneer To Address Knowledge Wave Conferenc

5 July 2001

Dr John Hood
The University of Auckland


The winner of the race to map the human genome, Dr Craig Venter of Celera Genomics, is to address next month's Catching the Knowledge Wave conference on the advances occurring in bio-technology and the opportunities for countries like New Zealand, the Vice-Chancellor of The University of Auckland, Dr John Hood, said today.

Announcing Dr Venter's agreement to participate with more than 30 local, expatriate, and international leaders on knowledge and innovation, Dr Hood said the role of bio-technology in New Zealand's future was a vital area of debate for the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference.

"Bio-technology and its applications are central to the way we maximise value and optimise our competitiveness in our traditional primary industries," said Dr Hood. "We also need to seek new expertise in industries through medical research and the development of new treatments.

"Appropriate public policy frameworks need to be developed as a matter of urgency."

As a leader in both bio-technological innovation and the commercial application of newly created specialist knowledge, Celera's experiences went to the core of the debate over bio-technology, with all of its social, economic, ethical, and scientific implications, he said.

These issues included not only the human genome discoveries themselves, with their huge potential for new cures and treatments and therefore to improve global quality of life, but also the power of a new idea to accelerate knowledge acquisition. In this case, it was Dr Venter's breakthrough "shotgun" technique to speed up the task of genetic sequencing.

"That breakthrough was partly the result of the application of a new idea, but its success was indebted to supercomputers, demonstrating the capacity of information technology to accelerate discovery," said Dr Hood. "Equally, both Celera's and the Human Genome Project's databases indicate the huge potential value of knowledge which is difficult to acquire and replicate."

Dr Venter will join the conference by video-link from the United States on the first morning of the conference in the "Economic Imperatives and Global Opportunities" session.

Dr Hood stressed that the role of international speakers to the conference was to offer insights into how other countries had achieved superior economic and social advancement by dramatically re-ordering their national priorities.

"However, New Zealand must plot its own course to a prosperous, socially cohesive future," he said.

Later the same day, another new addition to the speaker line-up, an expatriate New Zealander, Professor Robert Wade, will address the conference on the social implications of the global knowledge economy.

A distinguished international academic, based at the London School of Economics, Professor Wade authored the cover article for the April 28, 2001 edition of The Economist, arguing that global income distribution is becoming increasingly unequal.

"Bridging the 'knowledge divide' to ensure clear benefits for all parts of society will be essential for the successful re-orientation of public policies and attitudes," said Dr Hood. "Professor Wade will bring challenging insights to this crucial area of debate."

He welcomed also the involvement on the first day of the conference one of Europe's leading economic commentators, Dr Norbert Walter, chief economist for Deutsche Bank, who will help set the scene as the 450 invited New Zealanders at the conference focus on the urgent need to find new paths to social and economic success.

"Dr Walter will join Xerox Corporation's chief scientist, Dr John Seely Brown, one of the world's leading thinkers on learning and radical innovation, and the best-selling author and adviser on corporate innovation, Dick Foster, in outlining the opportunities and challenges of the 'global knowledge wave'."

Dr Hood also noted this week's release by the Australian Labor Party of its Knowledge Nation vision.

"This follows the Australian Liberal Government's innovation package earlier this year and further demonstrates that knowledge policies are a key area of policy development internationally.

"New Zealand can learn much from our trans-Tasman neighbour's bi-partisan recognition that Australia must lift its performance in creating new industries, unlocking creative potential, dealing with environmental challenges, and building a more cohesive society," Dr Hood said.

For further information, contact:

For further information on celera, see:

Australian Government innovation plan, "Backing Australia's Ability":

Australian Labor Party "Knowledge Nation" Taskforce Report:

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