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Genetic Discovery Important for New Zealand Growth

Published: Fri 27 Oct 2000 01:41 PM
Genetic Discovery Important for New Zealand Growth
Genesis Evidence Illustrates Benefits in Health, Primary Industries and Environment to Royal Commission on Genetic Modification
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 Geursen.
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 be lifted.
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.
ENDS
Please Note:
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
j.watson@genesis.co.nz
Robert Mannion
Botica Conroy & Associates
Tel: +64 21 403 505
robertm@bca.co.nz

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