Food innovations developed in New Zealand have a high degree of diversity and sustainability that can be directly attributed to the unique and deep natural resources offered by the country’s geographical remoteness and mild climate. High quality meat, dairy, fruit, wine, seafood, and a wide range of natural product ingredients have made New Zealand a major player in the global food and beverage markets.

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With dairy a major component of New Zealand’s economy, it should come as little surprise that our researchers are internationally recognised for their work to add value in this space. One of the key universities in this industry is Massey University. In keeping with its high international regard, Massey’s Professor Hajinder Singh has been awarded the 2015 International Dairy Foods Association Award in Dairy Food Processing from the American Dairy Science Association.

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In an interview with BiotechDispatch following his address to the Parliamentary Friends of Medicines event in Canberra, Ken Frazier, President and CEO of US-based Merck, one of the world’s largest biopharmaceutical companies and biggest investors in R&D, predicted human biology would be the next great driver of health innovation.

According to Frazier, there is an opportunity for Australia to “get on the wave of the biology revolution”. Yet he also said “attitudes” need to change, particularly when it comes to moving beyond “rhetorical” support for innovation.

“There’s no reason, given the quality of the science in this country, why Australia should not be a dominant power when it comes to the application of biology to human medicine.”

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The Asia-Pacific region has once again shown its strength in the 2015 Scientific American Worldview Scorecard rankings, holding three of the Top Five spots.

Released at this year’s BIO International Convention, the report evaluates countries on key factors that power biotechnology success. Life science innovation potential is measured using seven categories: productivity, IP protection, intensity, education/workforce, enterprise support, foundations, and policy and stability.

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The last few years have been defining for the animal health industry. A burst of deals has served to highlight it as a dynamic sector of strength, moving animal health beyond a modest branch of big pharma companies. In 2013, Pfizer spun off Zoetis into the largest animal health company in the world, further boosted by its acquisition of a pet care portfolio from Abbott this year. In 2014, Eli Lilly acquired Novartis’ animal products business for $5.4 billion, bringing Lilly’s Elanco unit into second place in the revenue rankings behind Zoetis, while divesting some products to Virbac along the way.

The recent boom in mergers and acquisitions comes as acquirers seek to take on technologies and capabilities that expand their market offerings geographically and strengthen their business in specific animal types. However, deal size is often constrained by anti-trust regulations. This is encouraging a hunger for smaller deals, academia-industry partnerships, and new entrants to the animal health market.

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New Zealand honey and health products company Comvita and the Institute for Innovation in Biotechnology (IIB) at the University of Auckland have recently won the KiwiNet Minter Ellison Rudd Watts Research and Business Partnership Award. The citation recognises the IIB as a prime example of the triple helix model of university, industry and government collaboration to accelerate innovation and provide career opportunities for graduates.

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Australia

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research celebrated its 100th birthday this year. The institute has grown from its initial £2,500 donation to the largest medical research institute in Australia. Its pioneering work includes fostering the hen egg technique to grow viruses (now the gold standard for producing flu vaccines), and developing hormones that have helped more than 20 million people recover from chemotherapy.

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The global flavours and fragrances market is estimated at USD25 billion and growing about 5% per annum. Four companies dominate this market: Givaudan 20%, Firmenich 14%, IFF 13%, and Symrise 11%. Flavours are the prevailing category, holding a 54% market share with the biggest end-users being the beverage sector (34%) and dairy (13%).

While the market for synthetic flavours is declining, the value of natural flavours is increasing. Continuous innovation is therefore necessary to keep up with a global trend towards more natural flavour solutions. Furthermore, consumers are increasingly looking for foods with health potential that can lead to interesting flavour combinations. For example, many varieties of dark fruit feature in the fastest growing flavours in dairy products, while herbs, spices, honey, and super-fruits drive flavour trends in the beverages market.

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Dedication and hard work paid off for South Island farmers who this year broke the Guinness World Record for the largest barley crop harvest. Warren and Joy Darling, from Timaru New Zealand, achieved a harvest of 13.8 metric tonnes of barley from just one hectare of land – comfortably passing the previous record of 12.2 metric tonnes.

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