IIB and Comvita win at the Kiwinet Research Commercialisation Awards 2015

The Institute for Innovation and Biotechnology and Comvita have won the Kiwinet 2015 Award for the best Research and Business Partnership.

The KiwiNet Awards celebrate heroes in research commercialisation — those individuals and organisations whose best practice approach is changing the innovation landscape in New Zealand.

Mark Burgess, Director of the Institute said "We congratulate all the finalists for this award. For the IIB this is a welcome endorsement of the model illustrating how well a University can create a company R&D environment that accelerates innovation. Comvita is our largest co-locator and has been at the IIB since 2009 but is not the only example: We have a total of nine co-locating companies accessing the rich resources of the University"

Comvita attributes much of its added value export success to the long term relationship with the University and the co-location of its research staff at the IIB. Comvita CTO, Dr Ralf Schlothauer, summarised the power of the partnership saying "Comvita has a rich flow of intellectual property coming out of this relationship. The research we do at the IIB and across the University has made a very substantial contribution to the added value seen in new Comvita products. It sustains our market leadership."

For further information see a summary of the IIB and Comvita Case Study presented to the Award judges and the Kiwinet announcement of the Award here.

Kiwinet Awards-480px_1
Recipients of the Minter Ellison Rudd Watts Research & Business Partnership Award 2015

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High profile for IIB at GBR Gap Summit 2014 in Cambridge, UK

The IIB and Master in Bioscience Enterprise (MBioEnt) programme had a noticeable presence at the inaugural GBR Gap Summit held in Cambridge 31 March to 2 April 2014. The Gap Summit is the flagship event for the Global Biotech Revolution (GBR) organisation whose mission is to inspire young people and support the next generation of leaders who will ensure the sustainability and growth of biotechnology. A hundred biotech postgraduate students and young industry staff were selected from around the world as ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’ to work together with 40 industry executives and academics as ‘Leaders of Today’ and address current and future gaps hindering the optimal development and public acceptance of biotechnology innovations. A disproportionally large contingent of seven University of Auckland graduates including GBR founding CEO and event organiser Ipshita Mandal were participating at the Cambridge forum. Professor Emeritus Joerg Kistler attended as an invited panel speaker and mentor for team projects. Discussions and projects addressed gaps around research and innovation, funding, workforce skills, as well as the public perception and acceptance of biotechnology. More information about the programme and outcomes can be found on the GBR website

The Kiwi presence at the Gap Summit (from left to right): Anthony Riseley, Ipshita Mandal, Tamsin Bateman (MBioEnt), Lillian Kuan, Simon Segovia, Carthur Wan, Sebastian Liu (MBioEnt), Joerg Kistler.

London MBioEnt alumni network growing

The Master in Bioscience Enterprise (MBioEnt) programme was launched in 2006 and has achieved around 120 successful completions to date. Around 25% of graduates are currently working in major economic centres outside New Zealand. London, Melbourne and Sydney are the main hubs with the highest numbers of MBioEnt alumni. The London alumni network has grown to six members who are currently employed in a diversity of positions with tech transfer, regulatory, business development and marketing responsibilities. Two additional alumni have returned to New Zealand following multi-year work experience in London. The IIB executive maintains contact with its overseas alumni and aims to meet them personally whenever the opportunity arises. The most recent of annual dinners for the London alumni was held 11 April 2014 and was hosted by Professor Emeritus Joerg Kistler. The group met in a historic pub in Islington in central London to catch up on latest news and discuss their experiences of living and working in one of the leading global finance centres. Everyone agreed that London provides a unique experience of business scale and relevance that will inevitably shape individual career development for the future. While none of the current London alumni has expressed immediate plans to return to New Zealand in the short term, the network facilitates mutual support between members in London and hopefully a successful repatriation sometime in the future.

IIB under new management from 1 January 2014

Over 150 guests at the final-of-the-year Bioscience Enterprise Forum on 13 December farewelled the old and welcomed the new IIB management team. Joerg Kistler (Director IIB) and Margot Bethell (Director Bioscience Enterprise Programme) are leaving the University at the end of the year to take up consulting roles in the industry.

Ten years have passed since the then totally novel concept of company co-locations and the Master of Bioscience Enterprise programme was initiated at the University of Auckland. Many universities around the world have since developed similar initiatives and the IIB remains at the global cutting edge for integrated academic-industry partnership solutions.

Having met all the milestones set by the Government in the Partnership for Excellence Agreement – for us it means “mission accomplished” and time to move on.

We are delighted to introduce the new IIB team starting 1 January 2014:

  • Director IIB: Mark Burgess (part-time jointly with his role as General Manager Research & Consulting at UniServices)
  • Director Bioscience Enterprise Programme: Stephanie Tulloch (previously NZTE)
  • Chair, Bioscience Enterprise Steering Committee: Kerry Loomes (also Chair BTech Programme)
  • PA for IIB: Stephanie Bailey

This new team will bring a lot of relevant experience and looks forward to working with you. The IIB will also continue to be supported by Analeise Murahidy and Lisa Perry from UniServices.

We would like to thank all the supporters of the IIB over the ten years and wish you all a great festive season.

Collaboration agreement signed between IIB and the ICEHOUSE

A Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate was signed on 12 December. The ICEHOUSE and IIB intend to collaborate and leverage each other’s strengths, synergies and best practices across a number of areas including networking, mentoring, research and education in a bid to further strengthen, promote and support each other’s entrepreneurial ecosystems as well as their own. Specifically, the IIB will offer life sciences start-ups under the mentorship of the ICEHOUSE access to its research facilities under its co-location scheme for industry staff. The partnership brings together the complementary capabilities of the IIB and ICEHOUSE under the same umbrella to improve and accelerate the development and growth of life sciences companies.

IIB hosts Evolving Design workshop with Comvita Innovation and NZBIO

On the 25th of November NZBIO supported the Evolving Design workshop run by Comvita Innovation at the Institute for Innovation in Biotechnology. Dr Charlotta Windahl (Senior Lecturer, The University of Auckland Business School) and Dr Ralf Schlothauer (CTO of Comvita Ltd and Adjunct Professor at The University of Auckland) explored the use of design thinking methodology for the biotech industry.

Design Thinking is the use of design methodology for the development of new products, systems, business models or organizations. It is different, but complementary to the scientific method, utilizing synthesis instead of analysis. As design thinking has recently gained favour for the development of products and services with many companies, this workshop looked at its applicability in the biotechnology sector.

After an introduction of the background and theory of Design Thinking, a group design and prototyping exercise to apply the process was conducted, followed by case studies and an open discussion on its potential in delivering benefits to the biotech industry. The feedback was very positive and many participants were interested in learning more about design thinking and how they can use it in their work. NZBIO will further explore design thinking as it applies to the biosciences at sessions and workshops at the 2014 NZBIO Conference: BioDesign on the 29th of April 2014 in Auckland.

The 2013 Comvita Science Symposium

“Comvita on the Move – The Science of Exercise and Nutrition” was the theme of the 5th Comvita Science Symposium. Held at The University of Auckland, the symposium showcased the broad research topics the Comvita Science Network is covering. Comvita co-founder and Director Alan Bougen opened the event with a strong emphasis on Comvita’s founding values.

The symposium had  three sessions:

• Nutrition and Exercise Science
• New Frontiers of Natural Products
• Through the Eyes of Consumers

In the first session’s speakers presented on how nutrition and exercise influences our health. Comvita Move Project Manager Vazishta Antia ( a graduate from The University of Auckland’s Master of Bioscience Enterprise program), shared the results from the first Comvita Move trial where 30 participants were given Olive Leaf Extract (OLE) and a smart pedometer to exercise. Some participants have reported a dramatically positive life change. This trial was recently featured in Pharmacy Today.

The second session had a series of short, punchy research presentations, ranging from Propolis, honey, Olive Leaf Extract and natural skin care to medical honey research. The presentations informed the audience about the current research advances made in the natural products industry.

In the third session, speakers discussed the use of new tools such as Gamification concepts and the Stanford University Design Thinking Process which can facilitate positive changes to people’s lifestyles.

One of the speakers in this session was the founder of Metia Interactive, Maru Nihoniho , who talked about SPARX. SPARX is a game designed at The University of Auckland to treat adolescent depression and has produced very successful outcomes. A clinical trial on SPARX  was published in the British Medical Journal in a paper titled, “The effectiveness of SPARX, a computerised self help intervention for adolescents seeking help for depression: randomised controlled non-inferiority trial”.

Comvita is actively researching how to use novel methods to positively influence people’s lifestyles for a healthier society.

To summarise…

This year’s symposium was very different from previous symposiums due to the way a broad spectrum of topics were tied together under the umbrella of innovation in preventative healthcare.

The presentation topics were not only about the science, but also about the integration of expert knowledge in multiple areas such as nutrition and exercise research and behavioural psychology, as well as natural products science in a way that creates meaningful outcomes for  consumers.

To see more pictures from the symposium, please click HERE and for enquiries regarding future symposiums, please email

Heidi Darcy giving her presentation

Deeply engaged audience

Nature publishes ground breaking research from IIB co-located AgResearch Structural Biology Laboratory

The research from the co-located AgResearch Structural Biology Laboratory at the IIB represents ground-breaking work of highest academic quality and has immense commercial potential.  Already covered by a provisional patent, this work could transform future pest management in agriculture.  The research uses state-of-the-art protein structure determination technologies and describes the discovery of a novel protein encapsulation device from a bacterial ‘ABC’ toxin.  Published in the world’s leading science magazine Nature (published on-line 4 August 2013), this research shows how nature has evolved a shell-like device that can universally encapsulate, protect and deliver a protein of a certain size into cells. This striking discovery reveals how the so-called ‘ABC’ toxins work, and how they might be used as biopesticides. The concept of a biological Trojan horse that delivers a biological control agent right into the core of a target pest species is at the heart of the patent that AgResearch has secured around this discovery.

Much of the work was carried out by PhD student Jason Busby and supervised by Dr Shaun Lott who has a joint position as a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, and is the leader of the AgResearch Structural Biology Laboratory in the IIB.  This research project has been funded by a FRST (now MBIE) programme directed by Dr Mark Hurst at AgResearch in Lincoln.

The AgResearch Structural Biology Laboratory has been the first industry co-locator in the IIB and a resident in the Thomas Building research complex for over ten years. Its staff and graduate students enjoy full access to the research infrastructure and services, including the specialist hi-tech equipment and facilities that were essential for the ground breaking discovery described above.