Genetic Discovery Important for New Zealand Growth
Genesis Evidence Illustrates Benefits in Health, Primary Industries and Environment to Royal Commission on Genetic
WELLINGTON, October 27, 2000 -- Continued development of a well-regulated GM sector will make a major contribution to
New Zealand’s future growth, the country’s leading biotechnology discovery company, Genesis Research and Development
Corporation Limited, told the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification today.
Presenting Genesis’ submission, the Head of Human Resources, Dr Arie Geursen, said that many drugs, vaccines and medical
diagnostics had been developed in the health biotechnology industry using genetic modification, often providing safer
alternatives than existing products. He also noted that success in health technology can be extended into New Zealand
primary industries to add value to commodity industries and benefit the environment.
“New Zealand is an agricultural country with a strong tradition of primary production,” said Dr Geursen. “Biotechnology
brings new benefits and opportunities for the development of innovative ways to solve industry problems and diversify
product development. Implementation of the latest scientific techniques and practices will enable New Zealand to play a
competitive role in world markets.”
Founded in 1994 by a small group of former Auckland Medical School scientists led by Dr Jim Watson, Genesis had become
an international leader in discovery, and currently employs 120 highly trained science and support staff, said Dr
In September, with a market capitalisation of NZ$180 million, Genesis was the first biotechnology company to list on the
New Zealand Stock Exchange, illustrating how biotechnology research and development can contribute to economic
development and wealth creation.
Genesis had produced a potential tuberculosis vaccine, a psoriasis treatment now in phase II clinical trials, and a
potential treatment for asthma.
Genesis’s experience in building EST databases had led to partnerships with Fletcher Challenge Forests, HortResearch,
AgResearch and Wrightson.
Last year, the intellectual property locked in the forestry EST database jointly developed by Genesis and Fletcher
Challenge Forests had been the cornerstone in forming ArborGen, LLC, a global alliance between Genesis, Fletcher
Challenge Forests and two of the world’s largest forestry operators, International Paper and Westvaco Corporation.
“Our experience at Genesis represents an excellent example of how a vision for the future combined with a recognition of
new opportunities can be converted into a successful New Zealand business,“ Dr Geursen said.
The company supported the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act of 1996 (HSNO Act) administered by the
Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA), but said it should be amended for low risk work conducted in
laboratories, as it currently required new applications almost daily for each step of an approved piece of research.
The company supported ERMA continuing to implement controlled field trials and believed the voluntary moratorium should
Dr Andy Shenk, Head of Research and Development, said field trials were a necessary part of research which aimed to
produce better trees for New Zealand’s forestry industry and to improve environmental sustainability.
Genesis’ discoveries about lignin, a naturally-occurring polymer that gives plant cells rigidity, allowed for stronger
trees and for less toxic methods of wood and pulp processing, he said.
Dr Shenk said research promised improved disease resistance for New Zealand forest trees, and new opportunities in
environmental recovery through developing trees that could thrive in otherwise infertile soil.
Statements of evidence by Dr Geursen and Dr Shenk are available from the contacts below.
Dr James Watson,
Founder and CEO,
Genesis Research & Development Corporation Ltd.
Tel: +64 9 373 5600
Botica Conroy & Associates
Tel: +64 21 403 505