June 12, 2014
  June 12, 2014

KiwiNet Awards Recognise NZ Innovation

Scientists and business people are increasingly teaming up to produce some of New Zealand’s most innovative export products. To celebrate their success the Kiwi Innovation Network will tonight hold its second annual awards.

Canterbury University’s professor Keith Alexander wanted to develop a safer trampoline for his children. He figured he might be able to sell a few dozen. Now more than 40,000 spring-free trampolines are exported every year.

“I am surprised at the success of the trampoline. At first I was thinking in terms of perhaps I could sell 30 a year in New Zealand, that would be good,” says Dr Alexander.

Other finalists in the KiwiNet Awards include a technology that allows new uses for titanium in the aerospace and marine industries, and a product that allows fishing boats to only catch the right-sized fish.

Plant and Food Research helped develop that one, as well as the use of pheromones to disrupt the mating of insects, so they can’t destroy fruit crops.

The KiwiNet Awards celebrate products developed from research by universities and Crown research institutes.

“We are really good in this country at innovation, but we just don’t get it right often enough on the commercial, the next step,” says awards judge Andrew Kelly. “So this award is all about trying to promote, recognise, reward, put on a pedestal, the examples we have of good commercialisation.”

StretchSense has already made the leap from the lab to profitability. University of Auckland associate professor Iain Anderson says the product uses stretchable sensors to monitor the movement of the body for the sports and healthcare industries.

“We are talking to a couple of big players, but the bottom line is that we are in the black. We are making money,” says Dr Anderson.

It’s hoped these companies will earn export dollars and inspire the next generation of innovators.

View Video: http://www.3news.co.nz/KiwiNet-Awards-recognise-NZ-innovation/tabid/421/articleID/348144/Default.aspx#ixzz34O7bPnGf

  April 28, 2014
  April 28, 2014

Supreme Court Ruling Means Yes to 150 Green Jobs

The Supreme Court of New Zealand has given the green light for three out of four new salmon farms in Marlborough. The new farms represent the first new space to be allocated for salmon for over twenty years.

New Zealand King Salmon CEO Grant Rosewarne says having a final decision is a relief to staff and management despite the disappointment over losing one of the farms. He says “We are pleased to finally have some certainty after three years of legal process. The decision enables us to bring economic benefits to the region while operating in an environmentally sustainable manner.”

The Supreme Court decision comes three years after the company first applied for a change to the Marlborough Sounds Resource Management Plan, and for resource consents to farm salmon at nine new sites.

The applications were first submitted to the Environmental Protection Authority in 2011 and heard by a five-member Board of Inquiry.

The Board of Inquiry granted permission for four of the nine new sites applied for. The Board’s decision was appealed in the High Court by two environmental groups, Sustain Our Sounds and Environmental Defence Society. The appeals in the High Court were rejected and the groups took their appeals to the Supreme Court where three of the four farms were confirmed.

Two new farms in the Pelorus Sound and one in Tory Channel total about four surface hectares in the Marlborough Sounds, and will eventually generate up to 150 new jobs for Marlborough and across the Top of the South.

The decision to grant the farm in Port Gore was overturned by the Supreme Court  on the grounds the site is within an area of ‘outstanding natural character and landscape’.

Mr Rosewarne says the benefits from the new farms will be significant, coming off a tiny footprint. He says “salmon farming has low feed inputs, high yields, uses little space and relieves pressure on the wild fishery.  The jobs generated from this expansion could well be described as green jobs”.

Once fully operational, salmon farming in Marlborough will generate around $210m in direct revenues as well as flow-on business for local companies supporting the industry. These include transport operators, engineering firms, science providers, tourism operators, local contractors and retail shops.

In addition, without diminishing its commitment to Nelson, more of New Zealand King Salmon’s operations could eventually be located in Marlborough such as some fish processing and management functions. Mr Rosewarne says processing in Marlborough would reduce time to market by a day, meaning fresher fish to customers, while reducing costs at the same time.

Outside of the court room, New Zealand King Salmon, the Marlborough District Council, marine scientists and environmental campaigners have been working together to develop best practice guidelines for salmon farming. This work is being facilitated and guided by renowned international experts to bring confidence and independence to the process.

Mr Rosewarne says the best practice guidelines will provide a platform for agreement to be reached by all parties.  He says  “We are committed to work together on solutions that are acceptable all round, which are good for the economy and the community, while protecting the environment.”

“This may involve some compromise by all parties to find the middle ground that is workable for both the industry and the community, and something we can proudly promote to the world.”

He says the legal process including a Board of Inquiry and two court appeals has been expensive and exhausting for all concerned, and he is pleased this is over and a new era of communication and collaboration has emerged, and already a lot of common ground has been achieved.

In addition to engaging locally, New Zealand King Salmon has recently joined the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI). The GSI is a collaboration of the 14 major global salmon companies and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). It has the goal of providing a highly sustainable source of healthy protein to feed a growing global population, whilst minimising environmental footprint, and continuing to improve social contribution.

“This is a game-changer. The salmon sector working together and embracing sustainability is going to radically change aquaculture – and affect the food industry in a big way,” said Dr Jason Clay, Senior Vice President of Market Transformation for WWF.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling is generally consistent with the Global Salmon Initiative’s goals to grow sustainably. The three new farms provide a ten year growth trajectory for New Zealand King Salmon, however, the precedent set by the decision casts doubts on all major developments in the primary industry that require space to grow – aquaculture, agriculture, forestry or horticulture.

  April 15, 2014
  April 15, 2014

New Clinical Trial Will Look at Role of Kiwifruit Extract in IBS

New Zealand natural pharmaceutical company Vital Food Processors Ltd today announced the launch of a trans-Tasman clinical trial targeting treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.

The 10-centre trial will investigate the efficacy of the kiwifruit extract Kivia in patients diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with constipation.

Vital Foods already markets the same product under the brand name Phloe in the over-the-counter market in New Zealand.

Irritable bowel syndrome is regarded as a major women’s health issue affecting about one in 10 people, mostly women aged between 20 and 50 years. There are limited treatment options for the condition, which presents as recurring abdominal pain or discomfort associated with either constipation or diarrhoea that lasts for at least six months.

The double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled Phase III clinical trial, to establish the efficacy of Kivia, will recruit 180 patients who will be monitored and treated over a three-month period. Recruitment will take place at 10 sites across New Zealand and Australia. Patients are already being admitted to the trial in Auckland, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Adelaide. Two other New Zealand centres will start recruiting patients this month. Results are expected before the end of this year and if successful, will lead to entry of the product into international markets with a specific health indication for the treatment of IBS.

Vital Foods’ chief executive Justus Homburg said Phloe is one of the most extensively investigated natural products for digestive health.

“This clinical trial is designed to build on the results of previous studies that focussed on relief of constipation and showed that Phloe relieved abdominal bloating, pain and flatulence in people with some of the symptoms also associated with IBS,” said Mr Homburg. “These included four randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials conducted in the United States and in China and three randomised open-label trials conducted in Japan.”

Gastroenterologist Dr Alasdair Patrick, who is managing the trial site at Auckland’s MacMurray Centre, says the new study is a significant step in identifying a successful treatment for the estimated 2.7 million people in New Zealand and Australia that suffer from IBS.

“Dietary intervention is already a mainstay of our treatment of IBS. Adjusting the intake of fibre, carbohydrate and fat in the diet can be effective, but IBS remains difficult to treat and is an ongoing burden for many people that impacts on their daily quality of life. This trial is a step towards identifying an effective treatment.”

Dr Iona Weir, Vital Foods’ chief scientific officer, says international investigations into the cause of IBS to date have yielded no clear results.

“However, while the causes of IBS have not been clearly identified, we do know what factors can contribute to symptoms. In earlier studies, Phloe has been shown to relieve some of those symptoms and what is most exciting is that it appears the proprietary kiwifruit extract in the product, zyactinase, may actually modify some of the contributing factors in the gut.”

“We now have an extensive body of clinical data that supports the efficacy of Phloe.”

”Anyone who is interested in further information about this clinical trial or who is interested in participating in the trial should go to:


About IBS

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder estimated to affect between 9 and 23% of the population worldwide. Although it affects approximately one in 10 people, the International Federation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders reports that most IBS sufferers do not seek medical help. Nevertheless, in the United States between 2.4 and 3.5 million annual physician visits are for patients diagnosed with IBS, and it has become a major women’s health issue.

About Phloe

One of the most effective, gentle laxative over-the-counter therapies currently available, Phloe is made from green kiwifruit using Vital Foods’ proprietary processing technology. Studies have confirmed that Phloe improves general digestive health, minimises episodes of occasional constipation, and assists in reducing abdominal discomfort. Phloe has few, if any, of the side effects commonly associated with harsher laxatives. It has been recently made a standard preparation for many patients undergoing radiation therapy for prostate and bowel cancer in New Zealand.

About Kivia

Kivia is the same formulation as Phloe but, if this trial confirms expected efficacy, it will be marketed internationally with a specific claim for treatment of IBS.

About Vital Foods

Vital Foods’ was established to provide the digestive health benefits of kiwifruit through easy to consume digestive health products for all ages. The company’s first product on the market was Kiwi Crush, a frozen kiwifruit drink that is sold as a digestive aid in supermarkets in New Zealand. Research into its therapeutic effects led to the development of Phloe, also based on kiwifruit, which was launched in 2007 and is now available in pharmacy, healthfood and grocery outlets in New Zealand and is about to be launched globally through www.digestivephloe.com. Together, the two products currently make up the highest-selling digestive health product family sold in New Zealand.

The new clinical study is a key step towards confirming Kivia as a treatment of a clinically diagnosed disease internationally, and, in turn, growing opportunities in the global consumer healthcare market. In mid 2011 Nestle took at 18.2% stake in the company through its wholly-owned Health Sciences Company. Other shareholders are New Zealand’s largest kiwifruit company Seeka Kiwifruit Industries, the venture funds BioPacific Ventures and Inventages, and private interests.

  July 28, 2013
  July 28, 2013

Major Expansion Planned for NZ Pharmaceuticals

New Zealand Pharmaceuticals Ltd (NZP), a global leader in Bile Acids manufacturing, has recently embarked on a $15M expansion programme at its facilities in Palmerston North.

Since being established in the Manawatu 42 years ago, NZP now exports products to over 35 countries worldwide.

Operations Director, Ed Teece, explains that its core business remains the supply of pharmaceutical intermediates and active ingredients to the global pharmaceutical industry. These products are used in the formulation of drug products (medicines) used in the treatment of a range of conditions including liver and kidney disorders.

“Over the years we’ve specialised in this niche area and cultivated a team with an international reputation as bile acid and carbohydrate experts,” Ed Teece says.

“We remain the global leader in the manufacture of bile acids and derivatives.”

As part of the $15 million programme, NZP is doubling the capacity of its storage and distribution facilities and building an additional GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) facility to meet increased demand in Bile Acids and fulfill stringent international regulatory requirements.

In the last 10 years NZP has also diversified. Its subsidiary company, JTB (Just the Berries) extracts anti-oxidants from blackcurrants used in health supplements and energy drinks.

In 2009 NZP purchased Dextra Laboratories in Reading, England, a company that specialises in carbohydrate chemistry. The research and development carried out by Dextra is focused on supporting the development of new chemical entities for the pharmaceutical industry and further strengthening the R&D capabilities of NZP.

NZP’s impressive history and achievements were presented to the British High Commissioner, Vicki Treadell, when she visited the headquarters last Friday, July 19.

NZP’s Executive Director, Dr Barry Old, presented an overview of the company, its history and milestones and Ed Teece provided Mrs Treadell with a tour of the existing facilities and where the major new developments are taking place. During the tour Mrs Treadell was introduced to a number of staff including two UK scientists who have been seconded to Palmerston North from the company’s Reading (Dextra) site.

NZP also presented a submission to the British High Commissioner seeking assistance to obtain British Government funding and research and development grants to support activities at NZP’s Reading facility.

NZP employs around 150 staff across its two sites, and exports hundreds of tonnes of product a year at a value of many millions of dollars.

Ed Teece also predicted the future where NZP is continuing to focus on bile acid development, diversifying into carbohydrates through Dextra, its British subsidiary, and continuing clinical trials for ManNAc, a carbohydrate product showing great potential in the treatment of certain kidney disorders.

“Our customers are also investigating new treatments for rare and often untreatable conditions where NZP plays a key role by providing the ingredients,” Ed says.

“This gives us great satisfaction in knowing that NZP is providing treatment for a number of rare medical conditions.”

  April 23, 2013
  April 23, 2013

Horizon Science achieves EFSA status for Benecarb

Australian company Horizon Science is celebrating another important milestone for its value added food ingredient Benecarb, which has received approval to be marketed in Europe.

The European Food Safety Authority has determined that Benecarb’s safety profile is substantially equivalent to molasses, creating immediate market opportunities for European food and beverage manufacturers. Benecarb has previously secured GRAS (Generally Recognised As Safe) status in the US.

Benecarb has been proven to significantly lower the blood glucose response to carbohydrate intake. Benecarb has a significantly higher ORAC value compared to green tea, providing a high source of natural polyphenols and antioxidants. Benecarb can be applied to a wide range of carbohydrate matrices in different food and beverage applications, improving blood glucose response and thus providing healthier carbohydrate metabolism. It can be used in a wide range of foods including cereals, baked goods, soft drinks, juices, energy drinks, meal replacement bars and sweeteners.

Horizon Science’s first commercial application of Benecarb is LoGiCane™, the world’s first all-natural low GI cane sugar, making it a healthier alternative to normal sugar. Recent testing at Oxford Brookes University – an internationally accredited GI testing facility operating to ISO standards – has shown Benecarb reduces the GI of a sugar from 71 (high GI) to 50 (low GI), a 30 per cent reduction versus the sugar tested without Benecarb.

“Achieving EFSA status for Benecarb creates a significant commercial opportunity for Horizon Science to license its patented ingredients to food and beverage manufacturers seeking to improve the nutritional health profile of their products,” said Arvind Sridharan, CEO, Horizon Science.

Horizon Science Director David Sinclair, Professor, Genetics Department at Harvard Medical School, said, “Polyphenols are increasingly being seen to address consumer health issues, and are a major driver of innovation in the food and beverage manufacturing space.”

Gunnar Weikert, Horizon Science Director and Chairman of Inventages, one of the world’s largest life-sciences, nutrition and wellness focused venture capital funds, said, “As the rate of obesity and diabetes increases around the globe, products like Benecarb can help improve consumers’ diet and help them live a healthier lifestyle. Our investment in Horizon Science is being validated by recent initiatives of large food and beverage manufacturers to lower the glycemic impact of their products.”


For further information, please contact:
Paul Sherman
Tel: + (61) 3 8587 8402

Email: paul@horizonscience.com

About Horizon Science

Horizon Science is an Australian-based company that develops natural innovative sugar cane molasses extracts enriched with polyphenols for health benefits in blood glucose management. Established in 2004 in response to a demand for solutions to increasing rates of metabolic syndrome disorder throughout the world, Horizon Science’s patented technology has applications for functional or novel foods, medical foods, dietary supplements and nutraceuticals. For further information visit www.horizonscience.com

  April 10, 2013
  April 10, 2013

Focus Genetics appoints new CEO

The Focus Genetics Board is delighted to announce that Gavin Foulsham has been appointed to the position of CEO.

Gavin joins us from 4 very successful years at Farmlands, as General Manager of the Farmlands Card, where his focus was engaging the Shareholder base, resulting in turnover growing during his tenure from $200m to $300m.

Prior to this, Gavin spent six years as GM of MoleMap, a high growth NZ health technology company, initially running the NZ business before launching the brand in the Australian Market. Gavin is very excited by the opportunity to head up the Focus Genetics business, which brings together two significant areas of passion and experience, being science and sales, in an Agribusiness environment.

Gavin grew up on a farm in the Nelson area and this along with his time in Farmlands and science background gives him a strong set of skills to lead Focus Genetics into the future.

Outside of work, Gavin likes to spend his time with his wife and two children, and when he gets the chance, waving carbon fibre over fresh water, both vertically (fly fishing) and horizontally (rowing). He is a former Paralympian, having represented NZ at Barcelona and Sydney as a Wheelchair racer, and as late as last year, wore the silver fern in his endeavours to reach the London Paralympics as a part of a NZ Double Scull ParaRowing Crew.

  February 7, 2013
  February 7, 2013

CoDa Therapeutics Announces Positive Results from Phase 2b

San Diego, California, January 8, 2013 - CoDa Therapeutics, Inc. today announced positive results from a Phase 2b clinical trial of NEXAGON® in patients with chronic venous leg ulcers. NEXAGON® is an easy to administer, once-a-week, topical, drug candidate being developed for the treatment of chronic wounds. It is designed to increase the incidence of wound healing compared to existing therapeutic techniques, and to heal them much faster. The company believes these results support advancing NEXAGON into Phase 3 registration trials. Venous leg ulcers are increasingly common and costly, and can be a cause of prolonged suffering for patients.

NEXAGON® was safe, and showed an increase in complete healing in the randomized, vehicle-controlled, double-blind, Phase 2b study. CoDa is preparing a paper describing the results of this trial that will be submitted to a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Dr. William Marston, Professor and Chief, Division of Vascular Surgery at the University of North Carolina and medical director of the UNC Limb Salvage/Wound Healing Center, stated, “CoDa’s Phase 2b clinical results are very exciting and reflect a well-designed and executed dosing phase study. This data will provide clear information to choose an optimal dose and patient profile to move to a pivotal clinical trial. Upon successful completion of this phase, NEXAGON® would provide a much-needed therapeutic to accelerate healing of chronic venous leg ulcers.”

CoDa Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Eisenbud, former President of the American Academy of Wound Management, said, “The positive results from the NOVEL2 study substantiate our prior findings from previous VLU studies and suggest that NEXAGON® could become a game changer: the first prescription medication to enhance the healing of venous leg ulcers. We are designing plans for Phase 3, and will review the steps to marketing approval at an upcoming end-of-Phase 2 meeting with FDA.”

Bradford Duft, President and CEO of CoDa said, “The NOVEL2 trial has provided a wealth of valuable information regarding CoDa’s NEXAGON® drug candidate. Statistically significant results from this large Phase 2b study represent another important milestone for CoDa and provide future hope for the hundreds of thousands of patients who suffer from VLUs with no approved pharmaceutical therapies to heal these wounds.”

About Venous Leg Ulcers

Venous ulceration is the most serious consequence of chronic venous insufficiency commonly resulting from damaged veins and/or valves. The disease has been known for several millennia with wound care centers established as early as 1500 BC. Still today, however, venous ulceration is a poorly managed medical condition notwithstanding that much has been learned about its pathogenesis and treatment. Venous ulcers account for 80%-85% of all leg ulcers with an overall prevalence of approximately 1-2% of the adult population in the United States, and typically appear as an open lesion, or ulcer, on the lower extremities, are very slow to heal, and often reoccur due to the chronic nature of the underlying disease process. For the more than 800,000 patients in the U.S. suffering from venous leg ulcers each year, the wound healing process is often time-consuming and costly, and may gravely impact quality of life. Of all ulcer types, 2 venous leg ulcers are the most common, resulting in the loss of 2 million working days and nearly $3 billion in treatment costs per year in the US. The substantial costs associated with venous leg ulcers are related to the prevalence of the indication as well as the lengthy duration of treatment. The healing process for venous leg ulcers may take over a year in some cases and frequently requires significant healthcare resources during the healing process. Although venous leg ulcers place a significant burden on patients and the U.S. healthcare system, existing treatment options are unable to fully address this unmet need.

About CoDa Therapeutics Inc.

CoDa Therapeutics is a clinical stage biotechnology company focused on developing novel targeted therapies that address major unmet medical needs in inflammation, wound-healing and tissue repair. The company is pioneering a new field of science: gap junction modulation, using a new class of therapeutics that can modulate wound responses and reduce inflammation. CoDa has two open INDs and has completed two Phase 2 and three Phase 1 clinical trials in skin and eye, where NEXAGON® was shown to be safe and tolerable following administration to over 580 wounds on more than 370 subjects. CoDa’s technology, which can be conveniently applied topically, been shown to work across a wide variety of wound and inflammatory settings and conditions. CoDa presently has issued patents in the US, Europe and elsewhere, and pending applications in eighteen different patent families directed to methods and compositions for the treatment of acute wounds, chronic wounds, scarring, abnormal scarring, inflammation and pain, fibrosis, surgical adhesions, and orthopedic procedures, as well as combination therapies and improved medical devices. For further information, please visit www.codatherapeutics.com.


The active ingredient in NEXAGON®, which has been shown to work across a wide variety of tissues, is CODA001, a natural, unmodified antisense oligonucleotide that down-regulates the key gap junction protein connexin43 to dampen inflammatory responses and enhance healing. Data show that for optimal healing connexin43 is normally dialed-down at the edges of acute wounds (i.e., wounds that will heal normally). Conversely, other data demonstrate that connexin43 is wrongly up-regulated at the edge of chronic wounds (i.e., wounds that are difficult to heal such as venous and diabetic ulcers). CoDa believes that one can better target available medical options and design more effective wound-healing alternatives by devising a therapeutic approach based on biological mechanisms naturally at work or conversely, at fault, in a given situation. The answer is thought to lie in connexin43, which can be seen as a “master switch” in wound healing that is temporarily turned “off” for superior healing of acute wounds, and when left “on” can lead to the unwanted inflammation and/or stalled healing characteristic of chronic wounds.

For More Information, please contact:

CoDa Therapeutics, Inc.

Bradford Duft, President and CEO (brad@codatherapeutics.com)

Tracey Sunderland, COO, in New Zealand (tracey@codanz.com)

The Ruth Group (on behalf of CoDa Therapeutics)

Nick Laudico – 646-536-7030 (nlaudico@theruthgroup.com)

  February 1, 2013
  February 1, 2013

Nimble, skilled and hard working

By: Brad Duft

People often ask me how CoDa Therapeutics has progressed so quickly in an industry notorious for the long lead times from development to clinical proof of concept and commercialization.

CoDa is developing novel wound healing therapies that target the control of gap junctions to reduce cell-to-cell communication and improve wound healing and tissue repair post-injury. In the six years since the CoDa Company was formed in New Zealand and the US, our lead product, Nexagon®, has been shown to work in every tissue it has been tested on to date. Our most recent milestone is achieving pleasing results from a Phase 2b clinical trial which saw more than 300 people in New Zealand, the US and South Africa have their chronic wounds treated with Nexagon®.

It’s probably true to say that what we have been able to accomplish since 2006 might have taken other companies twice as long. I put that down to being small and nimble, the team we have employed and fostering a strong work ethic.

Having most of our staff in New Zealand, including CoDa’s clinical and pre-clinical research teams, is a plus. New Zealand’s size, and the support we get from both the biotechnology community and the government, allows us to move quickly and economically. The only disadvantage is that we end up spending a lot of time on the phone between the US and New Zealand. It’s not awful but there is a spontaneity and spark that comes from talking face to face.

On the other hand, it makes good sense to have our commercial and financial efforts located in the US where venture capital markets are experienced and sophisticated. CoDa has so far raised over $NZ90 million, the most recent funds coming from Russian investment firm RusnanoMedInvest. We couldn’t have pursued our global growth plans without a US office.

The team we’ve formed at CoDa is also critical. My 30-year background in the US pharmaceutical industry provides both experience and connections and our chief operating officer (Tracey Sunderland) and chief medical officer (Dave Eisenbud) are experienced, smart and dedicated. Indeed, they are invaluable. It is the people that make companies succeed or fail and our people are CoDa’s most important asset. Drug development is a complex and high-risk business. We’ve had to make thousands of decisions in the last six years – a wrong one could have seen us end up with nothing. We rely on appropriate skills and a collaborative and collegial team with the ability to make and execute decisions. But we also hire expert help in areas like manufacturing, clinical trials and regulations to make sure we make the best possible decisions.

Work ethic is crucial and New Zealand has a fantastic one. We make no apology for having high expectations of our staff. Tracey Sunderland, who heads the New Zealand office, leads by example and we have no qualms about setting challenging deadlines for our staff. We know they can and will deliver.

I’ve got two favourite sayings – “hope is not a strategy” and “ego is the drug of stupidity.” It’s pretty clear what the first means – you have to know exactly what you are doing and where you are heading. The second is just as important. No one has the market on intelligence cornered and getting married to your own thinking can be dangerous. Our philosophy is that every decision can and should be reviewed, whenever it makes sense to do so.

Brad Duft is chief Executive, CoDa Therapeutics Inc. CoDa Therapeutics is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of a new generation of wound care therapeutics. The company is based in New Zealand and also has an office in San Diego in the US States. www.codatherapeutics.com

NZTE is New Zealand’s international business development agency. Its role is to help New Zealand businesses grow into international markets. www.nzte.govt.nz

  December 19, 2012
  December 19, 2012

Financing Deal of the Year Nominee: Rusnano/Domain and CoDa Therapeutics

It’s time for the IN VIVO Blog’s Fifth Annual Deal of the Year! competition. This year we’re once again presenting awards in three categories to highlight the most interesting and creative deal making solutions of the year. The categories are: M&A Deal of the Year, Alliance Deal of the Year, and Exit/Financing Deal of the Year. We’ll supply the nominations (a half dozen in each category throughout December) and you, the voting public, will decide the winners (by voting early and often, commencing once we’ve announced all the nominees). Strap yourselves in, it’s The Race for the Roger™.

How about voting for a deal that turns conventional wisdom on its head.

The biopharma industry has looked to emerging markets for near-term revenues and cost efficiencies, but not for scientific or commercial innovation. An umbrella deal between Rusnano, a five-year-old $10 billion Russian sovereign fund, and the US venture capital firm Domain Associates, announced in March, and a subsequent tie up with Domain portfolio company CoDa Therapeutics, goes some way toward erasing those misperceptions. At the same time, the partners’ tie up reflects sovereign funds’ increasingly important role in shaping the life sciences industry.

And it does so in such a creative, enticing way that Russia, not typically known as a life sciences innovator, is generating excitement among US VCs and biopharma companies. Rusnano is linked to Russia’s Pharma 2020 program, which is already impacting Big Pharma’s development decisions, as indicated by their deal-making activities in the country. At the same time, Domain’s commitment to the joint effort has also been intense, but the relationship is worth the effort because it’s potentially so lucrative, according to Domain partner Brian Dovey.

The size and structure of the partners’ deals are noteworthy: Rusnano, which has a mandate to broadly invest in nanotechnology around the globe, and Domain, the quintessential US VC, are investing up to $330 million each in Domain’s portfolio life sciences companies and up to $190 million to build a manufacturing facility in Russia for the products that would be sold in Eastern Europe out of the Domain companies.

The aim is to “spur modernization of the Russian healthcare market” by providing that country, along with Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States, with next-generation pharmaceuticals, medical devices and diagnostic products, Rusnano executives said at the time of the announcement. Under the agreement, roughly 20 existing and potentially new US-based Domain portfolio companies will benefit from the collaboration, and the partners can also co-invest in third-party technology.

In July, after months of review, the partners announced their first beneficiary: Domain’s wound-healing biotech CoDa Therapeutics. The San Diego-based company is licensing rights to its technology in Russia and the CIS to the new Domain/Rusnano-backed Russian pharma company. In exchange, Domain, along with current CoDa investors GBS Ventures and BioPacificVentures, and new investor Rusnano, committed nearly $40 million to CoDa, closing a Series B financing that began in 2011. The VC syndicate and Rusnano are each contributing equal amounts. CoDa, as with all Rusnano life sciences investments, has to establish R&D operations in Russia as well.

Domain isn’t the only US investor Rusnano is working with, nor is Rusnano the only tool the Russian government is working with to entice US venture capitalists and biotech entrepreneurs. It’s also established a business school and life sciences incubator, Skolkovo, in a collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and has other stimulus programs aimed at building a biotech industry. But by bringing in US innovators and offering them the carrots they need most: attractive financing, potential market opportunities, and acknowledgement of American’s entrepreneurial savvy, Russia may be demonstrating a new model for building a much needed ecosystem.

–Wendy Diller

  July 25, 2012
  July 25, 2012

CoDa Therapeutics Completes $49 Million Fund Raising

Auckland-July 24, 2012 – New Zealand company CoDa Therapeutics announced today that it raised an additional NZ$24.5M from Russian investment firm RusnanoMedInvest (“RMI”). This brings the company’s total Series B Round to nearly NZ$49 million following a first close late last year.

All current investors, including New Zealand-based BioPacificVentures, participated in the round. RMI is a Russian government company which invests in medicine and pharmaceuticals.

The RMI investment is accompanied by a licensing of CoDa intellectual property rights in Russia, potentially accelerating the availability of its drug Nexagon® on the Russian market. CoDa will receive an upfront license fee and royalties based on sales.

The financing will be partly used to expand late stage clinical trials of Nexagon® as a treatment for diabetic foot ulcers. CoDa recently initiated a 160 patient Phase 2 diabetic foot ulcer trial in the United States and will include additional clinical sites in Russia over coming months.

CoDa is also currently conducting a 300 patient Phase 2b trial of Nexagon® for the treatment of people with venous leg ulcers in New Zealand, the United States and South Africa.

Results from an earlier trial showed Nexagon® to be highly effective as a novel wound therapy for venous leg ulcers. In that trial, nearly one third of patients’ wounds were completely healed after just four weeks following only three applications of Nexagon® (compared to only 6% healing in a control group).

Bradford J. Duft, co-founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of CoDa Therapeutics said, “This investment by RMI – which brings the total funds raised by CoDa to over $90 million – is a significant validation of the New Zealand originated science co-invented by Professor Colin Green at the University of Auckland. CoDa is privileged to have a strong clinical and research team based in our Auckland office, led by Chief Operating Officer Tracey Sunderland, along with the support of local investor BioPacificVentures and, importantly during our continuing growth, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).”

CoDa has 70% of its staff in New Zealand including five scientists based at the University of Auckland, where Professor Green and his team are also based.

“This round of financing will allow CoDa to continue its global growth plans from New Zealand,” explained Dr Andrew Kelly, Executive Director of BioPacificVentures, a leading life science company investor in New Zealand. “BPV is delighted to be able to help fund this.”

Murray Bain, Acting Deputy Chief Executive, Science & Innovation at MBIE commented, “We are excited to see one of our portfolio companies achieve significant commercial milestones like this. The additional funding will further assist in the development the next generation of wound healing drugs, in conjunction with funding that has been provided by MBIE through the TBG program.”

“I am really excited to see the potential of the Nexagon® platform being developed,” said CoDa co-founder Professor Colin Green. “Nothing is more thrilling than seeing your discovery make major steps towards commercialization and the treatment of patients in need. Misregulated cellular gap junction communication is increasingly recognized as a key factor in a number of disease conditions and CoDa is at the leading edge of utilizing gap junction modulation technologies to target these conditions.”


About CoDa Therapeutics, Inc. – CoDa Therapeutics is a clinical stage biotechnology company focused on developing novel targeted therapies that address major unmet medical needs in inflammation, wound-healing and tissue repair. The company is pioneering a new field of science known as gap junction modulation, using a new class of therapeutics that can modulate wound responses and reduce inflammation. CoDa has two open INDs and has completed multiple Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials in both skin and eye, where Nexagon® was shown to be safe and tolerable following administration to over 380 wounds on more than 180 subjects. CoDa’s technology, which can be applied topically, has been shown to work in preclinical studies across a wide variety of wounds and inflammatory settings and conditions. CoDa presently has issued patents in the US, Europe and elsewhere, and pending applications in more than a eighteen patent families directed to methods and compositions for the treatment of acute wounds, chronic wounds, scarring, abnormal scarring, inflammation and pain, fibrosis, surgical adhesions, and orthopedic procedures, as well as combination therapies and improved medical devices.

About Nexagon® – The active ingredient in Nexagon® is CODA001, a natural, unmodified antisense oligonucleotide that down-regulates the key gap junction protein connexin43 to dampen inflammatory responses and enhance healing. Data show that for optimal healing connexin43 is normally dialed-down at the edges of acute wounds (i.e., wounds that will heal normally). CoDa has demonstrated in the clinic, however, that connexin43 is wrongly up-regulated at the edge of human chronic wounds (i.e., wounds that are difficult to heal such as venous and diabetic ulcers). CoDa believes that one can better target available medical options and design more effective wound-healing alternatives by devising a therapeutic approach based on biological mechanisms naturally at work or conversely, at fault, in a given situation. The answer is thought to lie in connexin43, which may be seen as a “master switch” in wound healing that is temporarily turned “off” for superior healing of acute wounds, and when left “on” can lead to the unwanted inflammation and/or stalled healing characteristic of chronic and other difficult or slow-to-heal wounds.

For further information please contact:

Tracey Sunderland, COO, CoDa Therapeutics, Inc.
Phone: +64 9 3760421
E-mail: tracey@codanz.com
Brad Duft, CEO, CoDa Therapeutics, Inc.
Phone: +1 858-677-0244 ext. 103
E-mail: Brad.Duft@codatherapeutics.com

  July 12, 2012
  July 12, 2012

NZ firm’s breakthrough trialled in US

A type of carbohydrate sugar known as ManNAc has been manufactured by New Zealand Pharmaceuticals since 2003.

The sugar is one that is important to the human body, however it is one that can be difficult for the body to produce naturally.

NZ Pharmaceuticals hold certain Intellectual Property rights to the molecule, which is an intermediate product used in the manufacture of many different drugs and medications.

The pharmaceutical company has been working with crown research institute Industrial Research Limited, to conduct research and development and manufacture the product which it exports to a number of drug companies.

NZ Pharmaceuticals business development manager Selwyn Yorke said recent overseas research showed people with the rare disease Hereditary Inclusion Body Myopathy lack an enzyme to produce Sialic Acid, of which ManNAc is a natural precursor.

Hereditary Inclusion Body Myopathy is a muscle-wasting disorder which usually starts around the age of 20-30 years.

Patients are usually confined to a wheelchair by the time they are in their 30s.

A partnership between NZ Pharmaceuticals and the US National Institutes of Health will see ManNAc produced into a therapeutic treatment that is hoped to reduce or halt the progression of the disease.

ManNAc is one of the first molecules to enter development in the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases program run by the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Pre-clinical tests have already been promising with test results in mice showing major improvements in the production of sialic acid.

ManNAc given to mice for several days lead to increased sialylation in kidney tissue and limb muscles.

An application to begin a phase one clinical trial will be filed later this month with the American Food and Drug Administration.

Yorke said the trials would hopefully begin in the US in several months.

“From there, if it is successful we hope it will go to a phase two trial.”

Yorke said it would be a long road until the drug was potentially considered safe and effective for use, but the opportunity was “invaluable” for them.

“It would be worth millions of dollars, and we would hope help many thousands of people.”

  July 20, 2011
  July 20, 2011

Vital Foods partners with Nestlé Health Science

Auckland – 14th July 2011 – Vital Foods today announced that Nestlé Health Science has become a strategic investor and taken a minority stake in the company. The terms of the transaction are not being disclosed.

Nestlé Health Science was established in January 2011 to pioneer personalised nutritional solutions to address chronic medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal disorders, metabolic conditions and cognitive decline. Nestlé Health Science is interested in Vital Foods’ portfolio of dietary supplements for digestive health, particularly constipation. The dietary supplements – Kiwi Crush and Phloe – are already widely used and recommended in New Zealand and are supported by clinical trials.

“We are delighted to partner with Nestlé Health Science,” said Dr. Gursh Bindra, CEO of Vital Foods. “Together, we are now well positioned to provide nutrition solutions for digestive medical conditions; for example constipation, which is commonly reported by patients with irritable bowel syndrome.”

Founded in 1991 with strong agricultural science credentials, Vital Foods has captured a strong market position in the New Zealand market with its kiwifruit-based digestive health products.

The range is being expanded with a view to focussing on maintaining consumers’ digestive health and well-being. Bindra explained, “Feedback from consumers, combined with results from our clinical trials, indicate that our products are safe and effective on a daily basis.”

By partnering with Nestlé Health Science, Vital Foods will now evaluate opportunities to continue developing its product portfolio which will be further supported by additional clinical evidence.

–End -

For more information please view www.vitalfoods.co.nz or contact:
Gursh Bindra, CEO, Vital Foods

  May 25, 2010
  May 25, 2010

CoDa Therapeutics Achieves Positive Phase 2 Efficacy of NEXAGON® in Chronic Venous Leg Ulcers

69% Reduction in Venous Leg Ulcer Size in High-Dose Arm at 4 Weeks

31% of Wounds Completely Healed in High-Dose Arm at 4 Weeks

San Diego, California, May 25, 2010 -CoDa Therapeutics, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of therapeutics for wound care and tissue repair, today announced positive results from its Phase 2 NOVEL Study of NEXAGON® in patients with chronic venous leg ulcers. NEXAGON® is a topically applied, novel therapeutic candidate, with the potential to revolutionize the wound healing treatment paradigm by leveraging a new mechanism and target involved in the healing process. .

NEXAGON® achieved positive results regarding safety, reduction in wound size and complete healing after four weeks in the randomized, vehicle-controlled, double-blind, Phase 2 NOVEL study. Based on these compelling results, CoDa plans to initiate additional NEXAGON® studies and has scheduled a near-term end-of-Phase 2 meeting with the FDA to discuss potential registration studies to support marketing approval.

The three-arm trial randomized 98 patients at multiple sites to receive low or high dose NEXAGON® treatment or vehicle, in addition to compression bandaging (standard-of-care). After only three applications over a four-week treatment period, high-dose NEXAGON® demonstrated a 69% reduction in the size of venous leg ulcers. In addition, complete healing of 31% of wounds seen in the high-dose treatment arm was five times higher than complete healing in the vehicle arm. Importantly, no drug-related adverse events were observed in either of the low or high dose NEXAGON® arms, confirming favorable safety results from previous preclinical and Phase 1 clinical studies.

Dr. Thomas Serena, a NOVEL Study Investigator, and Founder and Medical Director of the Penn North Centers for Advanced Wound Care, said, “The data from CoDa’s Phase 2 NEXAGON® trial are very impressive therapeutically, especially considering the accelerated rate of complete wound healing and excellent safety profile after only four weeks of treatment. By targeting the inhibition of Connexin43, which may be a ‘master switch’ in wound healing, NEXAGON® is designed to improve both the rate and quality of tissue repair while managing inflammation. If patients can experience better and faster treatment outcomes, NEXAGON® has the potential to address significant treatment limitations and economic burdens imposed by chronic wounds on patients and insurers.”

In the U.S., venous leg ulcers account for the loss of 2 million working days and nearly $3 billion in treatment costs each year. Duration of treatment may last over a year in certain cases, and frequently involves the use of significant healthcare resources, resulting in substantial costs for the U.S. healthcare system.

Dr. David Eisenbud, a vascular surgeon with expertise in wound evaluation and treatment, and former President of the American Academy of Wound Management, said, “The results from the Phase 2 NOVEL Study far exceed expected healing outcomes using today’s standard of care. As a physician focused on wound healing, my own venous ulcer patients would benefit tremendously from a treatment that closes their wounds by an average of nearly 70% in just four weeks. That is simply not achievable right now, and the NEXAGON® treatment results showing a 31% incidence of complete healing at four weeks are remarkable. The healing process tends to be much slower, and other chronic wound healing studies usually use a 12-16 week treatment period. Given the rapid and significant wound healing and safety results seen in the Phase 2 study, additional studies of NEXAGON® are highly warranted in patients with venous leg ulcers.”

In addition to Dr. Eisenbud, market research and interviews with practicing clinicians reveal that a product with the expected healing profile of NEXAGON® for chronic wounds would be seen as a major improvement over current standard of care treatments.

Bradford Duft, President and CEO of CoDa said, “After several years of intense work by a small and dedicated team, the results from this Phase 2 study represent a important milestone for CoDa. We are confident that the therapeutic potential of NEXAGON® will support our ongoing Series B financing and corporate partnering discussions. Chronic wounds represent one of the most significant unmet medical needs in the world today. The Phase 2 data support our conviction that CoDa’s Gap Junction Modulation technology is at the forefront of a potential paradigm shift in how we treat patients with venous leg ulcers and other chronic wounds. With our clinical development program mapped out, we are poised to contribute a major improvement in the quality and rate of wound healing for these patients as well as the U.S. healthcare system. We look forward to our upcoming end-of-Phase 2 meeting with the FDA, after which we will share the details of our future development plans.”

About the Phase 2 NOVEL Study

The NOVEL Study was a randomized, vehicle-controlled, double-blind Phase 2 clinical study to evaluate two doses of NEXAGON® in patients with venous leg ulcers. 98 patients (89 evaluable) were enrolled at sites in New Zealand and the United States, and randomized on a 1:1:1 basis to receive low or high dose NEXAGON® treatment or vehicle, in addition to compression bandaging (standard-of-care). Patients in all three treatment arms received three applications over a four-week treatment period. Study endpoints were reduction in wound size and complete healing after four weeks, as well as safety. Patients were evaluated at the end of treatment and are being followed for up to 12 weeks to further evaluate ulcer healing.

About Venous Leg Ulcers

For more than half a million patients in the U.S. suffering from venous leg ulcers each year, the wound healing process is often time-consuming and costly, and may gravely impact quality of life. Of all ulcer types, venous leg ulcers are the most common, resulting in the loss of 2 million working days and nearly $3 billion in treatment costs per year in the US. The substantial costs associated with venous leg ulcers are related to the prevalence of the indication as well as the lengthy duration of treatment. The healing process for venous leg ulcers may take over a year in some cases and frequently requires significant healthcare resources during the healing process. Although venous leg ulcers place a significant burden on patients and the U.S. healthcare system, existing treatment options are unable to fully address this unmet need.

About CoDa Therapeutics Inc.

CoDa Therapeutics is a clinical stage biotechnology company focused on developing novel targeted therapies that address major unmet medical needs in inflammation, wound-healing and tissue repair. The company is pioneering a new field of science: gap junction modulation, using a new class of therapeutics that can modulate wound responses and reduce inflammation. CoDa has two open INDs and has completed one Phase 2 and two Phase 1 clinical trials in skin and eye, where NEXAGON® was shown to be safe and tolerable following administration to over 350 wounds on more than 125 subjects. CoDa’s technology, which can be conveniently applied topically, been shown to work across a wide variety of wound and inflammatory settings and conditions. CoDa presently has issued patents in the US, Europe and elsewhere, and pending applications in more than a dozen other patent families directed to methods and compositions for the treatment of acute wounds, chronic wounds, scarring, abnormal scarring, inflammation and pain, fibrosis, surgical adhesions, and orthopedic procedures, as well as combination therapies and improved medical devices. For further information, please visit www.codatherapeutics.com.


The active ingredient in NEXAGON®, which has been shown to work across a wide variety of tissues, is CODA001, a natural, unmodified antisense oligonucleotide that down-regulates the key gap junction protein connexin43 to dampen inflammatory responses and enhance healing. Data shows that for optimal healing connexin43 is normally dialed-down at the edges of acute wounds (i.e., wounds that will heal normally). Conversely, other data demonstrate that connexin43 is wrongly up-regulated at the edge of chronic wounds (i.e., wounds that are difficult to heal such as venous and diabetic ulcers). CoDa believes that one can better target available medical options and design more effective wound-healing alternatives by devising a therapeutic approach based on biological mechanisms naturally at work or conversely, at fault, in a given situation. The answer is thought to lie in connexin43, which can be seen as a “master switch” in wound healing that is temporarily turned “off” for superior healing of acute wounds, and when left “on” can lead to the unwanted inflammation and/or stalled healing characteristic of chronic wounds.

For More Information, please contact:

CoDa Therapeutics Inc.
Bradford Duft, President and CEO, in the US (brad@codatherapeutics.com)
Tracey Sunderland, COO, in New Zealand (tracey@codanz.com)
The Ruth Group (on behalf of CoDa Therapeutics in the US)
Sara Pellegrino - Investors (646-536-7002 / spellegrino@theruthgroup.com)
Jason Rando - Media (646-536-7025 / jrando@theruthgroup.com)

  November 10, 2009
  November 10, 2009

BioPacific Ventures develops low glycemic index sugar – Video

New Zealand venture capital firm BioPacific Ventures today launches what it calls the world’s first healthy sugar.

Developed with Australian R&D firm Horizon Science LoGiCane is a low glycemic index sugar which was released in Australia earlier this year.

Michael Wilson spoke to Dr Andrew Kelly, executive director of BioPacific Ventures.


  September 3, 2009
  September 3, 2009

New Zealand Pharmaceuticals acquires Dextra Laboratories

Palmerston North, New Zealand, 3 September 2009 - New Zealand Pharmaceuticals Ltd (“NZP”) has purchased Dextra Laboratories which was a UK subsidiary of the drug development company Summit plc. Dextra’s primary business is the design and synthesis of complex carbohydrates that are of importance to drug development companies.

New Zealand Pharmaceuticals (NZP) has been manufacturing high purity biochemicals since 1971 from its base in Palmerston North, New Zealand. The company’s products are either extracted and purified from natural raw materials or synthesised small molecules. Products include bile acids, glycosaminoglycans, protein hydrolysates, amino acids, sugars and a range of plant-derived products, most notably blackcurrant extracts under its “Just the Berries” brand.

The acquisition extends NZP’s offering to the global market with the inclusion of Dextra’s catalogue of carbohydrates and derivatives, and the addition of medicinal and pre-clinical contract synthesis capabilities and cGMP contract manufacturing up to Phase I clinical trial scale. Dr Richard Garland, Managing Director of NZP said “This will complement NZP’s existing Phase II to full-scale manufacturing of carbohydrates, polysaccharides and bile acids, providing a single seamless link from discovery to full scale cGMP manufacture”.

The acquisition significantly enhances NZP’s product development and small scale GMP manufacturing base by the addition of 20 technical staff including 12 PhD chemists. This will enable NZP to provide glycotherapeutic products based on simple sugars and their derivatives, glycoconjugates, oligosaccharides and iminosugars. NZP’s new drug development services will be marketed and promoted to the customer bases of both companies and to the broader pharmaceutical and biotechnology markets.

Dr Garland went on to say “The acquisition of Dextra Laboratories is about enhancing the product range and capabilities of NZP by offering customers a full package of drug development and production services to enable our customers to reduce time to market”

Steven Lee, PhD, Chief Executive Officer at Summit said, “Summit believes NZP offers the best strategic fit for the Dextra business and provides the best opportunity to realise the potential of Dextra and its employees”

NZP is a private company, owned 51% by Direct Capital (a leading New Zealand private equity and venture capital firm) and BioPacific Ventures, with the remaining 49% of shares held by NZP management and staff. For more information visit www.nzp.co.nz

About Dextra

Based at the Science and Technology Centre at the University of Reading, in Berkshire, United Kingdom, Dextra is a specialist chemistry and analytical services business with a strong process development and GMP manufacturing capability. As well as custom synthesis services, Dextra provides a range of over 1000 catalogue products including carbohydrate building blocks and combinatorial libraries. Their recently opened cGMP facility enables the supply of material for early phase clinical trials.The company has also developed a strong IP position comprising both extensive know-how and patents in a number of areas; most notably its blood group antigen products which are finding application in plasma purification and organ transplantation.

For more information visit www.dextra-labs.co.uk

About Summit plc

Summit plc is a UK based drug discovery company with a major focus on developing new therapeutics from its iminosugar drug discovery platform.

Summit believes iminosugars are the key to gaining access to several disease mechanisms where classical drug candidates have had little success, and therefore offer a major opportunity for the discovery and development of new medicines. Carbohydrates play critical roles in maintaining correct function of many normal processes in healthy individuals and provide a wealth of new targets for drug discovery. Iminosugars have the capability of accessing such targets and offer the potential of generating new medicines in a variety of major therapy areas. Summit is currently focussed on metabolic diseases, including diabetes, and anti-virals.

Commercially, Summit has a track record of signing programme agreements and currently has an out-licensed product portfolio comprising of seven drug programmes with BioMarin, Orient Europharma, Evolva and the Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative. In the future these programmes may generate success based milestone payments and royalties for Summit.

The company listed on the alternative investment market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange in October 2004 – symbol: SUMM. Further information about the company is available at www.summitplc.com

For specific information regarding the Dextra acquisition, please contact:
Dr Richard Garland – Managing Director
Email: richard.garland@nzp.co.nz
Tel +64 (0)6 9523800

For New Zealand Pharmaceuticals Ltd business enquiries, please contact:

Selwyn Yorke, PhD – Business Development Manager
Mike Callagher – Commercial Manager
Email: market@nzp.co.nz
Tel: +64 (0)6 9523800

For Dextra Laboratories business enquiries, please contact:
Alex Weymouth-Wilson, PhD – Director R&D
Jim Beaumont – Sales Director
Email: dextra@dextra-labs.co.uk
Tel: +44 (0)118 935 7000

  March 17, 2009
  March 17, 2009

Low GI Sugar hits the market

The world’s first healthy sugar with a low Glycemic Index number – LoGICane – was commercially launched Monday by Agriculture Minister Tony Burke, a development that could secure the future of a remote Australian sugar mill.
With Australian cane growers under pressure from rising input costs and floods this year in many growing districts in Queensland, the launch of LoGICane is a welcome breakthrough for the industry, he said.

LoGICane, with a GI number of 50 compared with refined white sugar with a GI of 65, has the same taste and texture as white sugar but a much lower GI, which scientists say could have significant benefits for public health.

The GI ranks carbohydrates in food on a scale of 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood glucose levels. Foods with a high GI, say above 70, are those that cause blood glucose levels to go higher for longer, damaging vital tissues and organs and contributing to increasing incidence of obesity and diabetes.

“To believe that we could make sugar healthy four years ago wasn’t something that anyone would have ever believed,” David Kannar, one of the two key scientists involved in LoGICane’s development, said at the launch.

Cane crushing and sugar processing techniques haven’t changed and the global and Australian industry have never developed and worked to keep up with emerging health needs, he said.

“We’ve never been in this situation where obesity and diabetes are in such significant proportion,” he said.

The other scientist involved in LoGICane’s development, Barry Kitchen, said production is simple, through a membrane filtration process which concentrates the small health promoting compounds into the finished sugar crystal. Kannar and Kitchen formed Horizon Science Pty Ltd. in 2004 to commercialize patented technology derived from sugar cane waste.

“Sugar refining itself strips all the goodness from the cane and redirects them into waste streams, primarily molasses,” which include minerals and organic acids, Kitchen said.

Retention of the right micro-nutrients in the sugar slows digestion and makes the sugar low GI. These benefits are achieved through a process that involves less refining of the product than currently, also making it more wholesome and healthy, he said.

“With diabetes and obesity on the rise worldwide, being able to create a low GI version of one of the world’s most widely used food ingredients is a major breakthrough in public health,” Kitchen said.

Global sugar consumption is around 165 million metric tons a year.

The product was developed with federal government funding of A$5.4 million, grants from the Queensland state government, various other agencies, and investment from venture capitalists Investages LLC and BioPacific Ventures.

LoGICane was developed at and with the assistance of grower-owned Mossman Central Mill Co., the most northern mill on Australia’s far tropical northeast coast, and one of the last small independent milling operations remaining in Queensland state, which produces 95% of the sugar in Australia – an important supplier of the sweetener to Asia.

Bill Phillips-Turner, the mill’s chairman, conceded LoGICane is a niche product, but Mossman mill will expand its share of the 70,000 tons of annual sugar production “should demand take off.”

Other mills will be licensed to produce more of it as sales increase further, he said.

The sugar industry was going through hard times earlier this decade and Mossman mill had to do something to add value to boost returns, he said.

“This will help save the mill,” said Phillips-Turner, who cuts about 13,000 tons of cane a year on his farm at Mossman.

The product will be available nationally through all major retailers under a marketing arrangement with CSR Ltd. (CSR.AU) joint venture refiner/marketer company Sugar Australia.

  September 29, 2008
  September 29, 2008

BioPacificVentures invests in CoDa Therapeutics

CoDa Therapeutics and BioPacificVentures today announced an investment of US$3 million in CoDa Therapeutics. With BioPacificVentures investing alongside existing venture investors Domain Associates and GBS Partners, CoDa has now received US$23 million in its Series A financing.

CoDa is focused on novel wound care technologies based on unique targets and mechanisms of action that have been demonstrated to dramatically improve healing in multiple tissue types following a single therapeutic application.

“We are extremely pleased to extend our Series A financing to US$23 million and to be able to add another prestigious and experienced life sciences investor like BioPacificVentures to the team,” stated Bradford J. Duft, President and Chief Executive Officer of CoDa. “This Series A funding extension will allow CoDa to continue to expand its clinical development plans following the filing of its first IND earlier this year.”

“We are extremely impressed with the progress that the CoDa management team have made in the clinical development of its Nexagon® drug product candidate for the enhancement of healing in skin and eye wounds, and we look forward to working with Coda’s management team and Domain and GBS to support this exciting technology,” said Howard Moore of BioPacificVentures. “It is pleasing to be an investor in a company that has its roots in world class New Zealand science and is now progressing clinical development in New Zealand supported by a world class management team”.

About Nexagon(TM)

CoDa’s technology includes the company’s lead drug product Nexagon®, a patented small anti-connexin oligonucleotide that has been shown in numerous models to downregulate the proteins that form gap junctions and reduce cell to cell communication post-injury. Preclinical studies have shown that a single topical application of Nexagon® reduces lesion spread (cell death), swelling, inflammation, scarring and time to wound closure in a variety of tissue types including the eye, skin, spinal cord, and brain. The active ingredient in Nexagon®, a short-acting, natural oligonucleotide, is rapidly degraded if taken up in the bloodstream and no toxicities have been observed to date.

About CoDa Therapeutics, Inc.

CoDa Therapeutics, Inc. is a San Diego-based pharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of wound care and tissue repair therapeutics based on gap junction modulation. A Coda Therapeutics facility in Auckland is managing initial clinical trials in New Zealand and elsewhere in cooperation with the Company. For more information, please contact CoDa at info@codatherapeutics.com .

About BioPacificVentures

BioPacificVentures based in Auckland, New Zealand, is one of Australasia’s leading life science venture capital funds www.biopacificventures.com with a focus on investing in human health, nutrition and ag-biotechnology.

About Domain Associates

Domain Associates is a leading life science venture capital firm, with offices in Princeton, NJ and San Diego, CA.

About GBS Venture Partners

GBS Venture Partners is a leading Australian life science venture capital group. The GBS team has been investing in the development and commercialisation of technology from Australia and New Zealand since 1996 and has played founding investor roles in companies with a combined market capitalisation of more than $2 billion.

  September 8, 2008
  September 8, 2008

Direct Capital invests in New Zealand King Salmon

Direct Capital has invested alongside management to acquire a 45 per cent shareholding in New Zealand King Salmon.

New Zealand King Salmon is the country’s biggest salmon producer supplying both the domestic and export markets. Based in Nelson and with hatcheries, farms and processing facilities across Marlborough and Canterbury, the company is highly integrated from brood stock management right through to distribution of product through its well-recognised consumer brands, Seasmoke, Regal and Southern Ocean.

Ross George, managing director of Direct Capital, highlighted the features that attracted the private equity firm, “Food production is clearly a New Zealand strength but difficult to gain exposure to for investors because ownership is so often tied up in the co-op model. We were especially attracted to New Zealand King Salmon because of its market-leading position, strong brands and the high demand salmon is experiencing as consumers switch to healthier and more sustainably farmed proteins.

“The company has a strong domestic base and export revenues represent 40 per cent so it’s well diversified. We think the level of integration in the business also offers a significant barrier to entry. And, when we looked at the typical consumer diet, salmon is a low percentage of protein content but growing strongly so it has tremendous potential.”

Owned by the family interests of the Tiong family in Malaysia, New Zealand King Salmon was formed in 1996 through the merger of Southern Ocean and Regal Salmon to provide industry scale and to develop a domestic market with a wide variety of value-add products such as fillets, smoked salmon and ‘ready to eat’ meals. This strategy has proven to be highly successful.

The Tiong representative in New Zealand, Mr Thomas Song expressed appreciation and support in welcoming Direct Capital to the company. “New Zealand King Salmon is one of the most favoured assets within our NZ portfolio. It has performed exceptionally over the last few years both in the New Zealand market and as an exporter facing challenging conditions”, said Mr Song.

“We will retain our majority ownership but the time was right to widen the company shareholder base and seek a partner that would provide valuable strategic input and additional governance oversight as the company expands its activities. Direct Capital will provide extensive experience in a range of business fundamentals and understanding of growth markets, and we are pleased with their determination to partner in the future of New Zealand King Salmon.”

The partnership aspect was also important for Direct Capital as Mark Hutton, who led the transaction for Direct Capital commented. “Our investment approach is very partnership driven and we back management in all of our businesses. We’re delighted that as part of this transaction the management team is also investing with us. They’re a very experienced team and it’s important to us that they also have a significant shareholding in the business.”

Paul Steere, New Zealand King Salmon’s chief executive, was also pleased with the introduction of Direct Capital. “The company has enjoyed significant growth over recent years underpinned by our value-add strategy and ensuring export pricing reflected the premium quality of our products. This has provided a strong platform for continued growth to meet increasing demand.

“While additional water space is a challenge, we are working through some innovative options with the regulatory authorities. Similarly we will need additional processing capabilities as a consequence of our growth and having Direct Capital as a shareholder and at the board table provides further support for these growth initiatives.”

Contact Information:

Ross George Managing Director, Direct Capital Ph +64 9 307-2562

Paul Steere Chief Executive, New Zealand King Salmon Ph +64 3 546-4860

About Direct Capital

Direct Capital was established in 1994, by Ross George, Bill Kermode and Mark Hutton, who continue to own and manage Direct Capital. The team at Direct Capital today has 13 investment professionals. Direct Capital has raised over $440 million in seven funds. Recent investments include Rodd & Gunn, Go Bus, Shears & Mak4, Innovair, Paper Coaters, New Zealand Pharmaceuticals, and New Zealand Express Logistics.


About The New Zealand King Salmon Company Limited

The New Zealand King Salmon Company Limited was formed in 1996 with the privatisation and merger of New Zealand’s two largest salmon companies, Southern Ocean Seafood Limited and Regal Salmon Limited. The Company is ultimately owned by the Tiong Group, one of the largest private companies in Malaysia with substantial global investments in forestry, property and the media. New Zealand King Salmon is New Zealand’s biggest integrated aquaculture company and the biggest global farmer of the premium Chinook species of salmon. Rich in Omega 3 and other nutrients, salmon is one of the fastest growing protein categories. The company employs 415 staff and operates six sea-farm sites in Marlborough Sounds, two hatcheries in Waikoropupu Springs and Tentburn; and four processing factories in Nelson

  July 28, 2008
  July 28, 2008

Novotech wins coveted Australian CRO award from Frost & Sullivan

San Diego, CA- June 19, 2008 – Novotech, the largest Australian owned contract research organization (CRO) has confirmed its position as the pre-eminent Australian based CRO with the award by leading industry analyst house Frost & Sullivan as the Australian CRO of the Year. The award is part of the prestigious Excellence in Healthcare Awards series covering a spectrum of healthcare practice areas in the Asia Pacific region.

Novotech announced the win at BIO 2008, San Diego.

According to Frost & Sullivan, Novotech has demonstrated it can “manage multiple projects of almost any size across the globe”.

In the past year, Novotech, described by Frost & Sullivan as the best in its industry class for Australia based CROs, has expanded rapidly into Asia bringing its global reputation for high quality service and regional expertise to this growth area.

Alek Safarian, Novotech CEO, said much of the company’s research work was for leading-edge treatments in oncology and cardiovascular disease.

According to Frost & Sullivan analyst Ms Sohini Mitra, Manager of HealthCare Practice Asia Pacific: “The company’s significant revenue increase between 2005 and 2007 has stemmed mainly from their investment in IT capabilities.”

“These investments, along with geographic expansion and enhanced capabilities in the area of biometrics have enabled the company to manage multiple projects of almost any size across the globe.”

“Novotech’s focus on enhancing its Clinical Trial Management System (CTMS) technology, potential acquisitions and geographic expansion, position the company
favourably to exhibit strong growth in the future.”

Safarian said the range of skills and technology infrastructure Novotech has been investing in for years fits perfectly the service delivery expectations of overseas

“We also have world leaders in health and medical research right here in Australia which is one of the key reasons sponsors choose Australia for sophisticated clinicalresearch,” he said.

Following the company’s expansion to the US, Novotech attracted investment from two leading biotech venture firms BioPacificVentures and Co-Investor Capital Partners. This investment gives Novotech the capability to execute on its aggressive expansion plans internationally.

Novotech came out on top against its competitors after being evaluated on key criteria including excellence in one or more of the following criteria:

Revenue and market-share growth
Geographical and service expansion
Company’s strategy to strengthen position
Technological innovation and leadership

According to Frost & Sullivan in addition: “The company is perceived to exhibit outstanding management and consistent growth. The company must offer high quality
products and/or services and have positive social and economic impact on local and national communities. The company should have proven expertise in taking advantage of market changes by capturing and solidifying market presence, or through execution of innovative strategies within the existing competitive landscape.”

About the 2008 Frost & Sullivan Excellence in Healthcare Awards – Australia Clinical Research Organization Of The Year
The Frost & Sullivan Award for Australian Contract Research Organization of the Year is presented each year to the company that has demonstrated unparalleled excellence within its industry, growth and performance across Asia Pacific in 2007. The Award is based on factors including the company’s business development, revenue growth and market potential, geographical and service expansion and company’s strategy to strengthen position within a particular Frost & Sullivan Industry Research Group (IRG). This company is perceived to exhibit outstanding management and consistent growth. The company must offer high quality products and/or services and have positive social and economic impact on local and national communities. The company should have proven expertise in taking advantage of market changes by capturing and solidifying market presence, or through execution of innovative strategies within the existing competitive landscape.

About Novotech
Headquartered in Sydney, Novotech is focused on the Australian and New Zealand markets but has worldwide reach through the company’s subsidiary in the United Kingdom and its US and Asian operations. As the largest independent CRO in Australia, Novotech offers a level of flexibility and local knowledge that is unmatched among other contract research organizations in the region. Novotech’s US operations make it uniquely positioned to offer trials across the two countries, providing the benefits of Australia’s highly regarded cost-effective clinical trial capabilities, and at the same time take advantage of access to the much larger US market for rapid patient enrolment – a service that has to date only been available via large global CROs at higher overhead


For media/analyst interviews, contact:
Susan Fitzpatrick
DatelineMedia Communications
USA Office: +1 650 798 5238
Australia Office: +61 2 9006 1614

EMAIL: susan@datelinemedia.com

  April 4, 2008
  April 4, 2008

Healthy Investments

Healthy investments
Trevor Wilkinson (bottom) and his company have benefitted from the clout provided by Andrew Kelly (middle) and Howard Moore (top).

Bacteria and gut function have traditionally been blacklisted from dinner party conversation but that may all change – at least in New Zealand – if the venture capital fund BioPacificVentures makes good on its predictions.
By Melanie Cooper – Courtesy of Unlimited.

FOR MORE than a decade the backbone of the Vital Foods sales pitch for its kiwifruit-based frozen juice boiled down to anecdotal testimonials about its effects on constipated consumers. These days the Vital Foods pitch has more clout: the company develops and sells 100% natural digestive aids that are clinically proven to keep users regular while promoting long-term intestinal health.

The money behind the makeover came from the life sciences fund BioPacificVentures. The fund and the big names attached to it are staking their reputation – and over $100 million of investors’ money – on the idea that New Zealand and Australia can be world leaders in the biotech space where food, health and agriculture overlap.

“We’re well positioned to be incredibly competitive globally in this space because we’ve got such deep experience in the agriculture and food industries,” says BioPacificVentures executive director Andrew Kelly. “We’ve got a big food footprint in the world, meaning big companies, experienced executives, a real knowledge of international markets. All those things are already here and when we add the high-tech to it, we could be better than anyone in the world.”

Championed by one of New Zealand’s best-known venture capital firms, Direct Capital, the fund raising efforts attracted a stable of 11 investors including Nestlé, PGG Wrightson, AgResearch and the New Zealand Government’s Venture Investment Fund.

Apart from Direct Capital’s track record (BioPacificVentures is the firm’s sixth fund), the fund’s pulling power lies largely in the experience of its team. Executive director Howard Moore co-founded drug development company Tercica and was founding executive for ViaLactia Biosciences, while executive director Andrew Kelly was previously general manager of investment at AgResearch and a founding executive for the Crown Research Institute’s commercialisation arm, Celentis.

Former European head of Bristol-Myers Squibb Aki von Roy, who led the $12 million fund raising process for New Zealand biotech company Proacta, is also a partner through the international venture capital manager Inventages. In what Moore describes rather mildly as “fortunate timing”, the life-sciences focused Inventages, which has more than €1 billion under its management, came to New Zealand looking for investments and, on hearing about the new fund, decided to invest through BioPacificVentures.

Three years on from the fund’s official launch in March 2005, it has invested $50 million in nine companies across Australia and New Zealand, and committed an additional $20 million to be delivered once initial plan targets are met. Kelly is predicting another two to three investments with the remaining capital but says, given the 12-year life of the fund and the level of investment to date, they’re in no rush.

According to Kelly, the nine companies that have so far been singled out for funding have been whittled down from about 300 potential investments, which, at a hit-rate of just under 3%, puts it on a par with most venture capital funds.

Where BioPacificVentures differs from some other venture capital funds is in the scope of its portfolio – both in terms of the sectors the companies fit within and in their development stages, which include a listed company and a large contract-research organisation.

The most recent investment is probably the fund’s most unique. Anzamune is a New Zealand startup developing an anti-allergy drug from chitin, a compound found in the exoskeletons of critters like insects, crab, shrimp and lobster. It is a subsidiary of UK-based CMP Therapeutics, which wanted to take its technology (from Oxford University) to a part of the world that not only had high levels of allergies, says Kelly, but experience in allergy R&D and clinical trials. The October 2007 investment brought inbound money, too, through further Inventages capital.

The other investments are home-grown and also looking pretty good.

Auckland-based Vital Foods, which received $4 million in funding from BioPacificVentures and NZX-listed Seeka Kiwifruit in early 2006, launched a new product in New Zealand at the end of last year. Phloe is a targeted nutraceutical that aids digestive function using a protease enzyme complex extracted from kiwifruit using Vital Foods’ patented process. According to Kelly, the product is showing “a very healthy first-year sales curve”, which BioPacificVentures is hoping to see repeated when the product launches in the US later this year. The company is also building on existing relationships in Japan to sell its active ingredient for use in locally manufactured products.

Vital Foods CEO Trevor Wilkinson, who was appointed as part of BioPacificVentures’ investment strategy, says the venture capital has enabled the company to afford the clinical trials and gather proper scientific evidence to support its products.

“In our market [nutraceuticals], the key differentiation from other products depends on the strength of the scientific evidence. We’ve got that now and we’ve also got the additional motivation to stay focused on the core business and not to drift off in other directions.”

Like Vital Foods (founded in 1991), Palmerston North-based New Zealand Pharmaceuticals (NZP) is no startup. NZP was established in 1971 to extract and purify biochemicals from the meat industry’s byproducts. A relatively mature company for a VC, it was BioPacificVentures’ first investment (in November 2005) and was driven by the company’s more recent focus on glycotherapeutics, the building blocks being used in new drugs to improve their efficacy by allowing them to interact more efficiently with cells within the body.

In February 2007 the company opened a new $10 million production facility, allowing it to manufacture a variety of glycotherapeutic ingredients and other synthetic products. NZP has also entered a partnership with the glycotherapeutics research team at Industrial Research Limited.

“They are going very well in terms of meeting all our hopes or objectives,” says Kelly. “NZP is one of our favourite investments, possibly because as our first investment it’s also the investment that has had the most time.”

Another Kiwi company to attract backing from BioPacificVentures is Wool Equities and its 100%-owned subsidiary Keratec. As a listed company, Wool Equities made an unusual choice for a venture capital investment but the late-2006 move was driven by the company’s success in extracting keratin – a structural protein that is the main building block in skin and hair – and the potential applications. The company was the first to figure out how to extract the natural protein without destroying its structure, enabling sheeps’ wool-derived keratin to be used as a natural restorative additive in skin and hair products.

More exciting than the health and beauty product applications, though, are possible biomedical applications. Because keratin is the same in animal species, it is unlikely to cause an immune reaction when introduced into the body, and Wool Equities has been working on structural keratin bone pins that could replace those made of titanium. The compressed keratin bone pins could be left in the body permanently under the hypothesis they would ultimately integrate into the bone. Bony deficits caused by major trauma or congenital defects could also potentially be remedied with compressed keratin. Kelly says while the biomedical applications are a lot further out, US multinationals are already interested in the product concepts.

A recent investment, made in July 2007, has also caught the attention of multinationals, this time within the food industry. EnCoate, a spinoff from AgResearch, was initially trying to solve the dilemma of how to keep biopesticides alive. It has since adapted the science and used it to create proprietary, food-grade biopolymer technologies to extend the shelf life of food.

A primary application, and the one that has the multinationals salivating, is around probiotics. Often dubbed ‘good bacteria’, probiotics help with gut health and are used in food products like yoghurt. Until now the sensitivity of the bacteria has largely restricted probiotics to refrigerated products but with EnCoate’s technology food manufacturers could introduce them into products like cereals and snack bars.

CEO Simon Yarrow says the investment from BioPacificVentures is vital in terms of allowing EnCoate to keep ahead of competitors.

“BioPacificVentures’ investment has allowed EnCoate to make the business decisions it needs to be successful rather than being limited by lack of funds,” says Yarrow. “It has advanced our product development process by at least five years, which is absolutely critical given that other companies are trying to develop competing products.”

Also in 2007, BioPacificVentures invested in Rissington Breedline, a high-tech sheep and cattle genetics company. Rissington built up a client base of New Zealand farms that were farming the company’s own high quality breeds and then negotiated a deal with UK-based Marks and Spencer to supply premium, branded lamb meat. To ensure year-round supply Rissington is now selling its Highlander-Primera breeds to be reared on UK farms.

In late 2006, Melbourne-based Horizon Science became the fund’s first Australian investment and may reap some of its most significant returns. By studying the chemical makeup of sugar, the company’s two founders were able to identify naturally occurring substances within sugar that had the effect of lowering the absorption of carbohydrate (or creating a lower-GI sugar) and, at higher doses, increasing the ratio of lean muscle mass to fat tissue.

Even with the natural bioactives added back into the sugar, the sugar’s taste, texture and cooking qualities are unchanged. In other words, the food industry is able to swap the sugar out of existing food products for healthier, value-added alternatives.

Horizon is currently in the pilot phase and still at the tonne scale of production – small business in the sugar industry – but has begun supplying the sugar to research kitchens. Feedback from food manufacturers has been very positive. Projections of similar production costs to traditional sugar are the icing on the cake, so to speak.

The other Australian investment – in Sydney-based Novotech in June 2007 – was a strategic move for BioPacificVentures. Having Novotech, the largest contract research organisation in Australasia, in the portfolio is like “having a plumber in the family” according to Kelly.

Although Kelly says first and foremost it was a good financial investment. With a portfolio of companies all involved in clinical trials one way or another, they thought it was also pretty useful to have an expert in clinical trials on board.

Finishing up the list of nine, BioPacificVentures also invested in Brisbane-based Cleveland Biosensors , but is no longer a shareholder in the company.

A second fund is being mooted but it is likely to hinge on financial markets. For perception reasons, Kelly says they’d ideally like to have independently validated uplifts in value before entering another round of fund raising.

The pair is cautious in giving the fund’s report card. “So far we have met our expectations,” says Moore. “As to what’s ahead, New Zealand and industry globally are going to face some trying times, so we’ll have to see what that brings.”

“Although it is still early days, we’re very happy with our portfolio,” says Kelly. “Of course the real proof, the acid-test or whatever the cliché is, will only come when we see our companies grow – or not.”

  April 2, 2008
  April 2, 2008

2008 NZBio Deal of the Year

BioPacificVentures and Anzamune have won the 2008 NZBio Deal of the Year Award.

The award was presented at the annual NZBio Conference dinner in Auckland on Monday 31st March by NZBio CEO Bronwyn Dilley.

Anzamune Limited is a start-up company developing hay fever and asthma treatment products in New Zealand and Australia. It was established in New Zealand last July as a result of a major investment by Auckland venture capital firm BioPacificVentures. Anzamune is an off-shoot of UK-based drug development company, CMP Therapeutics Limited.

“This deal achieves the rare combination of bringing inward migration of technology, IP, collaboration and significant funds into New Zealand,” Ms Dilley says.

“Entries were judged on five criteria, the first of which was the financial impact of the deal. Secondly, the deal’s strategic importance to New Zealand was considered, and how it will help strengthen the company overall.

“The next measure was barriers overcome, or any obstacles that were dealt with before the deal could be successfully completed. Judges also considered teamwork, how the cooperative efforts of several individuals helped achieve the end result and finally, persistence.

“The BioPacificVentures and Anzamune deal stood out because it demonstrated that there are opportunities where it makes very good sense to transfer technology from offshore to New Zealand for development.

“In this case Anzamune established a base here because of the concentration of expertise in allergic diseases as New Zealand and Australia suffer some of the highest incidences in the world.”

“Our investment is one of the largest by BioPacificVentures, with funds being committed over three tranches based on milestone achievements and including a major contribution from our Swiss partners inventages Venture Capital,” Dr Andrew Kelly of BioPacificVentures says.

“We like having companies local to us and having our investments going into significant assets and people in this territory, and the idea of establishing a down-under entity appealed greatly. We’re proud to have done the deal in this way because of what it has brought into New Zealand and delighted to have won the 2008 NZBio Deal of the Year Award.”

Other nominees for the 2008 NZBio Deal of the Year Award were WaikatoLink for their deal with Endeavour Capital and Ancare for their deal with Merial.

Last year’s NZBio Deal of the Year Award was won by CoDa Therapeutics.

  April 1, 2008
  April 1, 2008

Shrimps to be used to battle hayfever


Shrimp shells are being used by New Zealand researchers as a novel therapy for hayfever.The treatment comes in the form of a nasal spray and changes the way the immune system responds to allergic triggers.Shrimp shells contain a carbohydrate called chitin…which has been manufactured into in a nasal spray.It is different from antihistamines or other sprays on the market as it acts to prevent hayfever.

“Our product doesn’t actually alter the symptoms, it alters the cause,” Dr Andrew Kelly from BioPacific Ventures explains. “It appears to alter the way the immune system responds to the allergen.”

Hayfever is common afflicting 20 percent of New Zealanders, one of the highest rates in the world.

An Auckland company has invested in developing the product here.

“It’s actually enabled a bit of technology and a bit of science to remain here and actually grow here, rather than needing to leave New Zealand to do its major development,” Dr Kelly said.

Meeting the expected demand from overseas is the company’s next big challenge.

“It’s unavoidable that a company like this must tackle and address global markets,” Dr Kelly said. “So it must be facing those big consumer markets in the US and Europe.”

It is now being tested on hayfever sufferers, but could be used to treat other common ailments.

“We’re also looking at other applications such as the common cold prevention of symptoms,” pharmaceutical executive Dr Stuart McLachlan told 3 News. “We’re looking at influenza.”

This week BioPacific Ventures are up for a major award for excellence to bringing economic value to New Zealand at a time when the country is losing many of its scientists overseas.

  January 30, 2008
  January 30, 2008

Lamb producers prosper from joint enterprise

New Zealand farmers are supplying lamb to Marks & Spencer supermarkets in Britain through an agreement worth $10 million a season at farm-gate price. In December, Rissington Breedline announced it had negotiated a supply contract with the supermarket chain for high-performance trademarked sheep breeds Highlander and Primera.
New Zealand lambs have been supplied on a weekly basis since Christmas through processors PPCS. The agreement is part of the Marks & Spencer lamb pledge which was developed with Rissington Breedline and a fanner working group. The pledge ensured producers were paid a fair base price which was fixed for the season. During the New Zealand winter supply would transfer to British farmers participating in the programme. Rissington Breedline chief executive Jeremy Absolom said more than 100 large-scale New Zealand farm businesses had become suppliers to the supermarket chain. The breeders had flock sizes which averaged nearly 5000 ewes and would be supplying more than $1Om. of lamb, at the farm-gate price, each season.

Absolom said the agreement had been well received by farmers who had experienced pricing uncertainty in recent years, leading some to abandon sheep farming. “Investors have been wary of an industry where they don’t know what the price for their product will be one week to the next, let alone for the whole season. Running a business for which earnings next week were uncertain was risky.

“This contract ensures suppliers are paid a fair base price which is fixed for the season. They can also earn an additional reward for good performance, including environmental and social policy incentives.”

The programme enabled farmers to access a package through Rissington Breedline which included highly-productive genetics, simplified farming systems and a specific end market. Marks & Spencer launched a campaign last year to re-position red meat to consumers, through prime location and improved long-life packaging, in an attempt to increase its market share of fresh meat sales, now dominated by Waitrose supermarkets.

The advantage of the pledge programme for Marks & Spencer was in creating a stronger link between consumers and suppliers. It also enabled the chain to provide consumers with a consistent product 12 months of the year through having suppliers in New Zealand and Britain employing the same genetics.

Absolom said Rissington Breedline would be better placed to anticipate the changes consumers were demanding and provide that product to them. “We have had to create a foundation to build from – this supply agreement provides that. ”From here we can work closely with retailers and processors to deliver what the market wants on a consistent basis.”

Settling on the right price for fanners would be key to the programme’s success, said Federated Fanners meat and fibre industry group chair Keith Kelly. “As long as everybody’s happy with the price, I think it’s the way to go. Ifs a good forward way of thinking – at least you know what your income is. ”If you can get an indication of what your income is you can adjust your expenditure to suit”

Kelly said fluctuating lamb prices, the Holidays Act and KiwiSaver had impacted on the profitability of sheep farming. “The government is imposing so many costs on industry. All these hidden costs which are coming in [are] being forced back to the ‘farmer.” Rissington Breedline began as three family farming businesses and had developed to become a company specialising in the science, production and development of sheep and beef cattle breeding.

  October 25, 2007
  October 25, 2007

Novotech in Expansion Mode as CRO Sector Continues to Grow at 15%

BioPacificVentures and Co-Investor Capital Partners invest in Novotech and back expansion plans

AusBiotech 2007 Conference

SYDNEY, Australia & SAN DIEGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Novotech, the largest Australian-owned contract research organization (CRO) with offices on the US east and west coasts, is now in rapid expansion mode as the CRO sector fundamentals continue to strengthen with growth of more than 15% per year.

Following the company’s successful expansion to the US, Novotech has attracted two leading biotech venture firms BioPacificVentures and Co-Investor Capital Partners as investors in the company and as backers of its overseas expansion plans.

Novotech, the recipient of the Frost & Sullivan Asian CRO of the Year 2006 – Australia Award and a winner of the Deloitte Fast 500 Asia Pacific 2006 program, is also looking to Asia as part of its corporate development with plans to have an office established in India by the end of 2007, and others in the region to follow shortly afterwards.

Novotech CEO, Alek Safarian said many of their US clients were requiring reach into Asia, and so offering a seamless operation serves their growing client base from the Australian and American regions. Novotech is highly regarded in the US and the EU for managing the Australasia/Asia Pacific component of global trials, and a stronger presence in Asia would further guarantee the Novotech stamp of excellence in high standard, speed, efficiency, and reasonable cost trials.

Aki von Roy from BioPacificVentures said the investment in Novotech was a strategic investment in the CRO space, which is thriving. Phillip Pryke of Co-Investor Capital Partners commented that Novotech, is now in an ideal position to further strengthen its presence internationally, in particular in Asia.

According to Frost & Sullivan Program Manager Shruti Dwivedi, Novotech demonstrated “exemplary growth and performance” and is well placed to benefit from the 15% per annum increase in trials conducted in Australia, much of which is coming from large pharmaceutical firms.

Novotech came out on top against its competitors after being evaluated on key criteria including “research capabilities, breadth and depth of services, geographical coverage, and alliances/partnerships that would enhance capabilities and the growth strategies adopted in pursuit of corporate objectives,” said Dwivedi.

“Novotech offers a broad spectrum of services in Australia and New Zealand, catered by a strong research team, experienced in diverse therapeutic fields. It has formed a subsidiary in the UK as well as external partnerships/alliances in North America and other regions to widen its geographical reach.”

Novotech also won praise for its therapeutic experience with its special focus on Oncology, Ophthalmology and Cardiology trials. It conducts approximately 60 clinical trials every year, where nearly 80% are in Phase II & III, with remaining in Phase 1.

Editors please note: Alek Safarian is a guest speaker at AusBiotech 2007 Conference Brisbane. Australia

Monday 22nd October, 2pm

Drugs from the Sea.



About Novotech

Headquartered in Sydney, Novotech is focused on the Australian and New Zealand markets but has worldwide reach through the company’s subsidiary in the United Kingdom and its US operations.

As the largest independent CRO in Australia, Novotech offers a level of flexibility and local knowledge that is unmatched among other contract research organizations in the region. Novotech’s US operations make it uniquely positioned to offer trials across the two countries, providing the benefits of Australia’s highly regarded cost-effective clinical trial capabilities, and at the same time take advantage of access to the much larger US market for rapid patient enrollment – a service that has to date only been available via large global CROs at higher overhead costs.


  September 4, 2007
  September 4, 2007

Funding, People and Products Vital To NZ Nutraceutical Company’s Success

In business, you can have all the ambition in the world, but without the funds, the people, the right products and distribution networks, ambition alone is not enough.

That’s exactly the position that Auckland based nutraceutical manufacturer, Vital Foods, found itself in a little more than a year ago.

With big aspirations and a number of promising products in the pipeline, Vital Foods lacked the funding and the people to turn their ambitions of expanding the company and bringing their newly developed product to market into a reality.

However, as Vital Foods can attest, a lot can happen in a year.

In just over a year the company has undergone a complete management restructure; has received an injection of funding to the tune of $7 million, and has recently successfully completed clinical trials of its latest natural digestive aid product, Phloe Healthy Bowel, which has just been launched in the New Zealand market.. The company also has plans to widen its distribution network, exporting its products to a number of international markets.

Vital Foods was founded in the early 1990s by former agricultural scientist, Bruce Donaldson, who discovered a way of making Kiwifruit into a frozen drink. The juice, marketed as Kiwi Crush, was bought as a health drink by many hospitals who found it had an unexpected bonus. It increased bowel regularity in patients and so reduced the amount of money the hospitals spent on laxatives. Kiwi Crush had steady sales throughout the 1990s, won a product innovation award and the 1992 National Heart Foundation Award.

With a successful product behind them, Vital Foods continued to research the health benefits of Kiwifruit derived products and also developed and patented technology that enables them to produce their key Kiwifruit derived ingredient Zyactinase™.

But by 2005, the company needed an injection of funds and energy to allow them to drive the business forward and provide the means by which they could develop further products and markets.

And that’s exactly what the company got when, in early 2006, BioPacificVentures (a $100 million Australasian food, health and agbio venture capital fund) led an investment co-funded by Seeka Kiwifruit Industries Ltd, that contributed the first $4m of what is now a $7m investment into Vital Foods to support the company’s commercialisation and expansion process.

Part of that expansion process involved a complete management restructure.

The first part of the restructuring involved appointing a new CEO – someone with relevant business experience who would be capable of leading the company forward.

That person was Trevor Wilkinson, who was appointed CEO in February, 2006.

Prior to joining Vital Foods, Mr Wilkinson spent ten years working for the €1.8 billion Dutch based multinational specialised nutritional company, Royal Numico, in positions that included Managing Director of Nutricia New Zealand Ltd and senior management roles in the US and the Netherlands.

As the newly appointed CEO of the company, Mr Wilkinson had three main objectives: to strengthen the management team at Vital Foods, to create a solid scientific platform that supported the safety and efficacy of the company’s latest product and to create a strong brand under which it could be launched.

Says Mr Wilkinson: “When I joined Vital Foods, it was a company that had a lot of potential on paper. It was an entrepreneurial company, and as is typical of most entrepreneurial companies, we didn’t have the resources or the right people to capitalise on our strengths. Part of the challenge was getting some structure into the company, and appointing a team of experts who were capable of taking the company forward.”

Mike Hollier, co-founder of the company continued in his role as Chief Financial Officer utilising his extensive experience in IT and corporate financing. To further strengthen the team two new roles were created in Sales and Marketing. Peter Burton formerly head of Reckit Colemans NZ and with a lifetime of experience in FMCG and Pharmacy was appointed as National Sales Manager, and Cameron Bower, formerly in Sales and Marketing roles with Pfizer was appointed as Marketing Manager.

With such emphasis being placed on scientific support for their products Vital Foods also needed an appropriate person to structure and supervise the company’s new science plan, which included clinical trials of its latest product, Phloe Healthy Bowel.

World renowned scientist, Dr Iona Weir, who has significant experience in clinical trials and who is one of only half a dozen scientists in the world specialising in both plant and mammalian physiology, joined the Vital Foods management team last October to undertake that critical role.

Mr Wilkinson comments that Vital Foods now has “an incredibly strong management team that is very capable of taking the company through its next stage of development.”

Dr Weir has a PhD from Auckland University and in 1997 was awarded an international award, the Young Scientist of the Year by the International Society for Analytical Cytology. Dr Weir established the bioactives screening platform for HortResearch and has extensive knowledge of Kiwifruit. She was chief scientist for Aegis BioActives, a joint venture between ENZO and HortResearch, before becoming Research Director for BioDiscovery.

With the management team firmly in place, Vital Foods then turned its focus towards completing the necessary steps to get its latest product, Phloe Healthy Bowel, to market.

The first step involved clinically trialling the product.

While supplement companies are not required to clinically test their products, Mr Wilkinson says that Vital Foods strongly believes in backing up all of its products with strong clinical research and science.

Says Mr Wilkinson: “We had all the anecdotal evidence that our product was effective in treating constipation and improving long term intestinal health, but we wanted the science to back it up. Given that we are a company founded on the philosophy of combining nature with science, it was essential that we clinically tested our product.”

Rebecca Sanders, a Business Manager with the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, who have provided assistance to Vital Foods, says the company has taken an exemplary step in validating the science underpinning the natural health product.

“Vital Foods is setting an excellent example by carrying out such rigorous testing. There is increasing demand in overseas markets for proof that natural products do what they claim to do. Natural doesn’t automatically mean safe, so it’s important that companies have strong scientific evidence to meet regulatory requirements and consumer expectations.”

The clinical trials were conducted earlier this year through an innovative partnership between Vital Foods, Dr Weir, and Auckland based Bioactives Research New Zealand Limited. The two trials investigated the effectiveness of Vital Foods’ latest product, Phloe Healthy Bowel, in relieving constipation. One trial included 134 people and the other included 58 people, all of whom suffered from moderate to severe constipation.

Says Dr Weir: “The results of the clinical trials were outstanding. We demonstrated that we could deliver a significant improvement over the period of one week.”

Vital Foods does not call its new product, Phloe Healthy Bowel, a laxative, but a digestive aid, because not only has it been clinically shown to promote regularity but it also, through its combination of prebiotics, enzymes and fibre, has the added benefit of promoting long-term intestinal health.

With New Zealander’s spending around NZ$9.35 million a year on constipation relief products, Mr Wilkinson admits that the market is extremely competitive, but says that there are very few products that compare to Phloe Healthy Bowel.

Says Mr Wilkinson: “Our product is quite unique in that it’s completely natural and safe for both short and long term use, and has been clinically shown to promote regular bowel movements while also improving long term intestinal health.”

Dr Weir says that the research work showed the prebiotics, enzymes and fibre in the product worked with the microflora in the gut to gently progress digestion. She plans to write up the results to publish in medical publications early next year.

While Vital Foods is very excited about the commercial potential of its new product, it has no intention of being a one or two product company.

Says Mr Wilkinson: “For the past year we have focused on getting Phloe Healthy Bowel to market. We are really encouraged by the results of our recent clinical trial and, armed with science and research, we are confident that we will be able to develop a range of natural health products with clinically proven health benefits that are based on Kiwifruit.”

In addition to plans to develop a comprehensive range of health products based on Kiwifruit derived ingredients, Vital Foods also hopes to grab a slice of the lucrative New Zealand nutraceutical export market, which returns around NZ$300 million a year, by widening their distribution networks and exporting their products internationally.

The company is currently exporting its original Kiwifruit derived product formulation Zyactinase™ (in powder form) to Japan, where they have a solid list of clients working on developing the market.

“Our strategy is just like any other normal business. We will establish a home market here and from there we will develop distribution through selected export markets where we can see the potential to develop a sound business. We are currently looking at potential markets including Asia, Europe, the USA and Australia,” says Mr Wilkinson.

  August 14, 2007
  August 14, 2007

Sheep breeds deliver what customers want.

Consistency of product; consistency of supply.
It’s Marketing 101.
You can’t build a brand on a variable product, nor a market on fluctuating supply.

STOCK BREEDING: The Highlander (hogget and twins pictured) and Primera
breeds carry genes responsible for additional muscling.

HAPPY CUSTOMERS: Larger lamb racks from improved sheep meet
the requirements of a top depatment store.

In primary production, variability (due to genetic differences in animals and plants) and fluctuations (due to seasons and climate) are the name of the game. This has put New Zealand in a position of vulnerability in the past – the country has been a price taker for commodity products. Land prices and input costs (labour and fertiliser, for instance) have been rising more rapidly than product value, and many farmers have been feeling the pinch.

Even the increased pay out associated with Fonterra is not the ‘white gold’ some are portraying. Andrew Ferrier, CEO of Fonterra, has pointed out that the previous payout was below a sustainable level.

Professor David Hughes, Imperial College London, talking at the Rissington Breedline Conference in Napier last month, suggested that successful food producers aim not at commodities, but at “what people want and for which they are prepared to pay a premium”.

Rissington Breedline (RBL) is a stock breeding company that focuses on value creation. The RBL vision, articulated by Jeremy Absolom, CEO, is to deliver to the consumer a consistently high quality eating experience in the most efficient and profitable manner possible in partnership with dedicated farmers.

With a breeding programme for Highlander® and Primera® sheep, supported by extensive research and development, RBL is providing farmers with the genes they need to produce a consistent product.

Dr Gerard Davis, CEO of Catapult Genetics Australia, terms it “Breeding for the value chain.” He has shown that with two copies of the MyoMAX® gene (present in the Highlander® and Primera®), which is responsible for additional muscling and dressing percentage, carcasses are worth $7.20 more than average carcasses.

New Zealand lamb is already selling in Munich at €42.99 a kilogram, but with the NZ Inc. approach – farmers working together – the price back to them could be increased dramatically through improved efficiency (less wastage), coordination and a happy customer.

Marks and Spencers (M&S), for instance, want half a million lambs between December and June. They want the same product through the rest of the year, too, but from UK where RBL sheep will again be producing them.

No farmer can supply that number of lambs alone, nor can the farmers provide a consistent product alone.

Working together with the same gene stock, they can.

For RBL, the M&S stamp of approval is huge. It shows that the focus of adding value inside the farm gate through improved genes is working. Working with M&S at one end, and their genetics at the other, RBL believes it can deliver and add value all along the value chain.

According to Professor Hughes, ideal value chains are short, fast, transparent, seamless and collaborative. He articulated three points towards success:
suppliers who work closely with customers are more successful in terms of profit that those who don’t;
large suppliers/groups get more out of partnerships with their customers that smaller-scale as they have more resources to apply;
suppliers producing value-add products and/or services are more successful than commodity providers.

In the UK, the gap between farmer and processor has been described as ‘The Missing Link’ in a report released earlier this year by the English Farming and Food Partnerships (EFFP). Quality of product was ranked more highly than price by 99% of processors surveyed in the report. Two thirds of food processors indicated the view that farmers would strengthen their position as suppliers if they formed themselves in to collaborative groups, and most wanted to work more closely with suppliers. Closer contact was expected to bring benefits for supply chain competitiveness through improved communications, and provide greater confidence in the consistency of supply and reduced costs. The report concluded that there are opportunities for food processors and manufacturers to work more collaboratively with farmers to add value.

Over the next year, EFFP will be providing help and guidance to businesses which want to build improved collaborative trading relationships and secure and increase the market for home-grown British food.

It is difficult to imagine that increased UK collaboration will be good for New Zealand’s lamb sales, unless changes occur here.

The focus on quality, however, could be extremely good.

“We can produce something that is substantially better than anyone else, then package it and price it accordingly”, says Alan McRae, agricultural consultant and RBL Director. He is convinced that New Zealand can improve strategy. “You’ve got to be prepared to change – you’re either in that game of doing it better and getting richer or you’re not.”

  August 9, 2007
  August 9, 2007

Lamb revolutionaries

Visionary sheep and cattle genetics company Rissington Breedline is promoting a radical sheep farming concept to help it manage the 400,000 lambs it needs to supply top- end British supermarket chain Marks & Spencer.

In the year just ended, the first of the contract, 100,000 lambs were killed. “It wasn’t easy getting those,” Rissington chief executive Jeremy Absolom told 200 of its farmer clients at the company’s annual conference in Napier. “It proved to us that without a more coordinated approach we can’t meet Marks & Spencer’s needs.”

The new plan, set out by farm consultant and Rissington director Alan McRae, is to unravel the complex traditional sheep farming system.

The typical hill country farm has two ewe flocks. One has the best ewes that are mated with rams chosen for producing the maternal traits of mothering ability and milk and from which replacements are selected.

The other’s ewes are mated with a terminal sire, a ram chosen for its growing ability and meaty carcass, whose lambs are all killed. As well as running these flocks and trying to finish the lambs to slaughterweights on what is usually a small amount of growing country the farmer also has to find room for young stock, the hoggets that are kept to grow into replacement ewes.

Often, the farmer is unable to finish many lambs and is forced to sell them on the store market.

Under the new plan, the work now being done on one farm would be distributed among specialist farms and the store lambs retained. The expectation is that more lambs would be available for the Marks & Spencer contract.

One specialist would be a growing farm that has only young stock. Some would be the male and female lambs that can’t reach slaughterweights on the breeding farm and are being grown on, others would be the replacement ewe hoggets that stay for a year before returning to the breeding farm as two-tooths. They would have a lamb while there to defray expenses.

Mr McRae is the first to admit this part of the plan is not new. Dairy farmers have been sending their heifers off to graze elsewhere for at least 30 years. Rissington has operated a similar scheme for hoggets, called Sheeplink, with its Highlander and Primera breeds for five years. Now it wants to step this up.

The other specialists are two types of breeding farms. One would concentrate on a terminal flock, producing high quality lambs, the sort wanted by Marks & Spencer. Many of the lambs would reach slaughterweight at weaning; the others would go to the growing farm to grow on.

The other breeding farm would breed replacement ewe lambs. These would be grown out to mating weights as ewe hoggets on the specialist growing farms.

Both breeding farms would be easier to run, with simpler systems needing fewer staff. With only mature sheep on the farms, they would be fed better and perform better.

All these farms would link up to efficiently produce lambs for the Marks & Spencer contract and would receive an equal share of the proceeds. “They all become specialists, doing as good a job as they can in the value chain for a known end market, and they all get to share in it,” Mr McRae says.

He describes lamb supply from the industry as “shambolic, firing lambs out all over the place”.

“At the moment, we try to do everything on one farm and we often don’t do any of it as well as we should. We produce all kinds of lambs at all times of the year and expect the processors to take those and get them to the market at a premium price.”

And without accurate market signals the farmers end up breeding too many replacements, he says.

Mr Absolom says the initiative for this came from being closely involved with Marks & Spencer, which wants a steady supply of high quality lambs for 26 weeks of the year.

“It means we have had to run a magnifying glass over our farming system, and what we found was a complicated system of independent fragmented entities that didn’t have a show of delivering with any flexibility for 26 weeks. We need a more collective approach and people need to decide now to be in or out, there’s no halfway house.”

SO FAR, Rissington has had a lot of farmer interest in the plan, general manager Alastair Nelson says. “They feel the need to support this and are keen to see the detail.”

The company has set up a marketing entity that will coordinate the supply of lambs, particularly those that would normally be sold store, among the specialist farms throughout New Zealand.

It will shortly begin negotiating processing deals so shipments can start from early November. Eventually, a year-round supply to Marks & Spencer is envisaged, with British farmers supplying 200,000 Primera lambs in the other six months of the year.

Mr Absolom says the supermarket chain was attracted to Rissington by its commitment to applying new technologies and gene marker discoveries to constantly improve its two sheep breeds.

The Primera sired the sort of lambs Marks & Spencer wanted but it was also interested in the Highlander’s breeding programme because it held the capability to increase the number and weight of weaned lambs. “They said, anyone who’s not going to be committed to lambing at a high enough percentage, no matter what we pay them, are never going to make enough money and will always be complaining.”

In streamlining the farming systems, farmers will be in closer touch with what Marks & Spencer’s customers want. “This could be a blueprint for the industry in all markets – cooperation between farmers, coordinated throughout the country; it will relieve pressure on the processors and will supply exactly what the markets want.”

The proposal also comes at a time when growing, or finishing, land is in demand. The dairy boom has seen this land coveted for conversion to dairying or to grow crops to support dairying.

Mr Absolom expects that under the specialist farm system the finishing land’s value for sheep will rise as the system becomes more efficient.

“At the moment the finishing farm is a sorry sight,” he says. “It’s sitting there with some high value land but hasn’t any certainty – it doesn’t know when, doesn’t know how many, doesn’t know what weight, doesn’t know what price in and doesn’t know what price out. It’s a pretty dysfunctional operation.”

Individual farmers lack the scale to make the gains needed to compete with dairying but they can as a group, he says.

Breaking the traditional farming model won’t be easy, Mr McRae says. “It will go against farming’s biggest attraction – the rugged independence, the individuality and wanting to be their own boss in charge of everything.

“But we’ve got to become connected to the marketplace. If we sit and think someone will solve the dollar, someone will merge the co-ops, someone will change the industry and everything will be okay – it ain’t going to happen. We’ve got to get off our backsides and make something happen.”

Imperial College, London, Professor David Hughes, who delivered an analysis of the British and European food market, told the farmers the proposal was “brilliant”.

“You need everyone in the value chain to share the vision, even the food processors in the middle.

“You’re in the food business, not the supply-driven meat business, not the carcass-on-hooks business.

“It’s not about what you grow it’s about what you know – about understanding what your customers and your customers’ customers value, and it’s about delivering what your customers value at sufficiently low cost so you can make a good profit.”

  July 25, 2007
  July 25, 2007

Venture capital deal opens global probiotics market for EnCoate

BioPacificVentures today announced its ninth investment in the life sciences – $6.3 million into EnCoate Ltd, the biopolymer company owned 50/50 by AgResearch and Ballance Agri-Nutrients.

The $100 million BioPacificVentures fund, managed by Auckland firm Direct Capital in collaboration with the global Inventages group fund which manages $1.5 billion in life sciences area. The group, which invests globally (inclusive of Australasia) and, will bring much muscle to EnCoate, says BioPacificVentures Executive Director Dr Andrew Kelly

EnCoate is developing a unique family of biopolymers, discovered by AgResearch at Lincoln in the late 1990s. These biopolymers stabilise microbes so that they can survive for long periods at room temperature. EnCoate has a first product already on the market, BioShieldTM, commercialised by co-owner Ballance AgriNutrients. BioShield allows beneficial microbes to survive when used in field applications to control grass grubs.

However, the EnCoate biopolymer has much wider application. Microbes are used in many products these days, including foods, seed-coatings and laboratories. Initially the capital injection will finance the development of a revolutionary line of probiotic formulations that will enhance food products. Probiotics are microbes that have beneficial health effects on humans and animals. However, current technology limits their application to yoghurt and other milk products as they must be refrigerated.

Dr Kelly said EnCoate fitted the fund’s investment profile perfectly.

“We are focused on helping promising life science companies – especially those that operate in the area where food and health converge. EnCoate is a great example.”

Dr Kelly said that while EnCoate’s initial focus had been on developing its technology for the agricultural sector, BioPacificVentures had suggested a wider emphasis toward more global markets.

“Probiotics, the ‘healthy’ bacteria, is one such market,” he said. “Offering much more than capital, we believe our multinational food industry experience will be very beneficial to the company. We will nominate two Directors to the Board of EnCoate, one local and one European, to add to the strong expertise at Board level.”

BioPacificVentures is funded by local and international investors with Nestlé, the world’s biggest food company, the largest investor and the largest local investor being leading agribusiness firm PGG Wrightson.

EnCoate’s goal in probiotics development is to extend the shelf-life of probiotics with special formulations to two years at room temperature and humidity. Current technology does not allow probiotics to be mixed with moist or non-chilled ingredients, which considerably limits the scope of their application. EnCoate has developed a technology that can stabilise these microbes so they can be used to enhance foods such as breakfast cereals, infant milk-powders and dog-biscuits.

Bridgit Hawkins, Acting EnCoate CEO, said this opens a potentially huge global market for probiotic ingredients.

“The market for EnCoate’s probiotic ingredients will be global manufacturers and marketers of non-chilled foods that are seeking to differentiate their products in the perceptions of health-conscious consumers.”

The probiotic ingredient market is worth over US$600m annually, and is growing at a rate of 10 – 20% per annum, she said.

AgResearch General Manager of Commercial Services Dr Ian Boddy said EnCoate’s technology, when applied to probiotic ingredients, has the ability to double that market by enabling food manufacturers to extend the probiotics category from refrigerated foods to non-refrigerated products.

“What’s more, EnCoate has potential beyond extending the shelf life of probiotics, with the core technology behind EnCoate being the biopolymer, which has applications in agricultural biology, food, seed coatings, and vaccines,” he said.

The technology was developed by a team of scientists at AgResearch’s Lincoln campus near Christchurch and led by Dr Trevor Jackson of the Crown Research Institute’s Biocontrol, Bioprocessing & Biosecurity Section.

About BioPacificVentures

BioPacificVentures, one of Australasia’s largest life science venture capital funds, was launched in March 2005. The $100 million fund brings together two leading venture capital managers – New Zealand’s premier VC firm Direct Capital and inventages Venture Capital Inc, one of the biggest life science investors world-wide with over €1 billion under management. PGG-Wrightson, one of Australasia’s premier agribusinesses, and Nestlé, the world’s biggest food company, are the major investors. BioPacificVentures invests exclusively in life sciences across Australia and New Zealand, with a principal focus on areas where the food and health sectors converge.


About EnCoate

EnCoate is a joint venture company between New Zealand’s leading fertiliser company, Ballance AgriNutrients Limited and AgResearch Limited, New Zealand’s primary sector Crown Research Institute. EnCoate specialises in the development of proprietary food-grade biopolymer technologies. These simple biopolymers have broad application in extending the shelf-life of food and microbe-based agricultural and health products at up to ambient temperatures. Additional technologies include fungal and bacterial products and delivery systems.


About Ballance Agri-Nutrients

Ballance Agri-Nutrients is New Zealand’s leading fertiliser specialist, with manufacturing plants located in Whangarei, Mount Maunganui and Invercargill. In addition, the company owns the ammonia-urea manufacturing plant at Kapuni in Taranaki, and Super Air, one of the country’s largest agricultural aviation companies.

Ballance is a 100-percent farmer-owned co-operative, with some 18,000 shareholders throughout New Zealand. It was officially launched in 2001, bringing together a number of regional fertiliser co-operatives to become a truly national company. The company places a strong emphasis on delivering value to its shareholders and on the use of a scientific approach to plant nutrient management.


About AgResearch Ltd

New Zealand’s largest Crown Research Institute, AgResearch comprises a number of renowned research centres but most importantly it is made up of hundreds of individual scientists, technicians, their teams and support staff. Their work targets the key issues faced by the pastoral and biotechnology sectors, and leads to innovative products and knowledge that benefit all New Zealanders.

Through its mission, 2020 Science, AgResearch endeavours to keep the country prosperous to 2020 and beyond. The strategy is underpinned by its five big ideas : to double the value of dairy production while halving the costs and impacts on the environment; to double the value of meat and textile production while halving the costs and impacts on the environment; reducing the risk of pests and diseases gaining a foot-hold in New Zealand and helping to manage those already here; working with rural communities and agribusinesses to ensure they both remain sustainable for future generations in a global environment; and making the most of opportunities beyond food and fibre.


For further information contact AgResearch Media Advisor Mike Eng ph 029 489 9139 / 03 321 8825 or Ballance Agri-Nutrients Communications Advisor Michelle Gray ph 07 572 7887 / 027 487 9656.

  May 25, 2007
  May 25, 2007

BioPacificVentures invests in Rissington Breedline

Leading international food, agriculture and health investor BioPacificVentures has taken a 45% shareholding in Hawkes Bay-based livestock genetics company Rissington Breedline.

Rissington Breedline, a privately-owned company, is New Zealand’s largest sheep and beef genetics company with breeding operations throughout New Zealand and in the United Kingdom and South America. Its core business is the ownership and breeding of brands and products primarily in the form of genetically superior rams, bulls and replacement females for meat production.

Rissington Breedline, well known for its ground-breaking lamb supply partnership with UK specialty food retailer Marks and Spencer, is widely regarded as a trail blazer in promoting market-driven supply chains involving proven genetics, simplified farming systems and dedicated market sales programmes, all designed to produce superior returns to sheep and beef farmers and superior products tailored to consumers’ needs.

Rissington Breedline chief executive Jeremy Absolom said the BioPacificVentures investment would give Rissington Breedline the resources to take the company, in collaboration with its partners and dedicated farmer clients, to a new level in terms of meeting the requirements of modern integrated supply chains.

“We welcome the investment as another key landmark in the development of our business and a vote of confidence in the future of the industry.”

“It has taken time but we are absolutely convinced that our Highlander, Primera and Stabilizer breeding programs now represent options that are unmatched by the foundation breeds we started with.”

“Those people who are fully committed to specialisation and real ongoing productivity gains will climb out of this tough time in better shape. But in order to supply retailers with what consumers are demanding, we all will need to be prepared to actively participate in producer groups alongside processors,” Mr Absolom said.

BioPacificVentures executive chairman Bill Kermode said he was highly impressed with the calibre and commitment of the people and organisations involved with Rissington Breedline across New Zealand and overseas and is very pleased to become part of this group through this investment.

“We see Rissington Breedline as one of the leaders – and major beneficiaries – of the changes that are occurring in the lamb production supply chain model. The path they are taking is already well established in the international dairy, pork and poultry industries, and is likely to gain momentum here in response to the continued low lamb schedule prices experienced recently by the industry.

“We look forward to complementing Rissington Breedline’s strengths at board level through our own expertise in the global food and agribusiness sectors and to seeing the company continue to grow and prosper in the interests of all its partners,” said Mr Kermode.

BioPacificVentures is one of the world’s largest food, nutrition and agriculturally focused investment funds. Its largest local investor is leading agribusiness firm, PGG Wrightson.

BioPacificVentures has appointed one of their executives Dr Andrew Kelly and Hugh Martyn (a PGG Wrightson Executive) to the board.

For further information contact:

Rissington Breedline
Jeremy Absolom
Office: 06 8395836
Mobile: 021 928886

Bill Kermode
Office: 09 3699234
Mobile: 021 664434

  March 23, 2007
  March 23, 2007

Wool Equities Appoints Elizabeth Hopkins as CEO

Wool Equities Chairman Dr Andy Pearce today announced that Elizabeth Hopkins has been appointed as Chief Executive Officer. Mrs Hopkins is currently CEO of ENCOATE Ltd, and from 2001 to 2003 was Chief Development Officer, NEURONZ Ltd.
“Elizabeth has an outstanding background and experience to lead the development and growth of our investments in Keratec and Orico” said Dr Pearce. Prior to coming to New Zealand in 2001, Elizabeth was Global Project Manager – Early Development at PFIZER, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, based in the UK, where she was responsible for leading major development projects through Phase I and Phase II clinical trials. She also spent 8 years in drug discovery projects in Pfizer culminating in her leadership of a Pharmacology Team within Pfizer’s Neurology Group.
In addition to her experience in a major multi-national drug company, Elizabeth has successfully transitioned into two start-up companies in New Zealand, playing key leadership roles through out the phases of establishment, capital raising, intellectual property generation and product launch. She also has extensive experience in the Agri-Biotech sector gained whilst working as CEO of EnCoate, an AgResearch/Ballance AgriNutrients Joint Venture.
“We are delighted to have been able to appoint a CEO with large company project and clinical trial management background, combined with Agri-Biotech start-up and venture capital raising experience. This is an ideal combination for the current stage of development of Wool Equities and its investments”, said Dr Pearce.