Published May 25, 2020
A Wellington UniVentures international partnership is helping to prepare some of New Zealand’s most innovative, deep-tech research projects and companies to land in China with the best chance of success.
Known as Biolink, the joint venture between Wellington UniVentures and Suzhou New Drug Incubator Life Science Co. Ltd—an incubator of Suzhou Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica (SUSIM)—aims to open up scientific, technological and investment activities between New Zealand and China. It allows Wellington UniVentures to undertake business activities in China, take advantage of Chinese incentives and to contract across borders with Chinese entities.
The Biolink office is based at Suzhou Industrial Park, one of China’s largest and most successful industrial parks for high-tech industries—with a particular focus on bio-medicine, nanotechnology, new materials and new-generation information technology. So far, Biolink has assessed more than 25 mature-technology projects and start-ups from across New Zealand, to determine their suitability for the Chinese market. While they have all received support and funding from KiwiNet at early-concept stage, three stand-outs are currently making significant progress.
The first involves a team of Victoria University of Wellington researchers who discovered a way to manufacture a potent-yet-natural class of pesticides that kill parasites and insects. Their method is far cheaper and more environmentally-friendly than traditional methods as it uses sugar water—rather than the toxic solvents typically used—to chemically synthesise the necessary compounds. Biolink is helping the team to commercialise their first product—animal parasite control for the veterinary market—by showcasing the proof of concept to key Chinese stakeholders and potential investors.
Hamish Findlay, Wellington UniVentures General Manager, Commercialisation and a member of the Biolink board, says that Peter Lai—who is managing the joint venture relationships—forms a key part of that process. “Peter’s networks in China are invaluable, as introductions are essential to doing business in China.”
The second Victoria University of Wellington project involves the development of a novel, ultrafast spectroscopy tool that enables scientists to integrate multiple spectroscopy experiments into just one. Peter says it will reduce the time it takes to conduct testing (and analyse the resulting data) from months down to just days—while opening up the ability for greater scientific insights. “We’re currently working to lock-down a distribution agreement in China that will allow us to supply componentry from, and retain expertise in, New Zealand.”
The third project that Wellington UniVentures is championing through Biolink involves Dr William Abbott from the New Zealand Liver Transplant Unit of the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB). Dr Abbott has invented a cost-effective, non-invasive diagnostic blood test that can detect active liver disease caused by the Hepatitis B Virus—specifically genotype C—one to eight years before serious complications occur, enabling preventative treatment before complications develop.
Biolink brokered a licensing agreement with a major Chinese biotech company who will develop and distribute blood testing kits in China. Sales royalties will be paid to the ADHB, the inventors and the New Zealand Health Innovation Hub (NZHIH)—the organisation that contracted Wellington UniVentures to help DHB innovators develop their smart ideas into new products and services that make a real difference to the health sector.
“Biolink is a win-win for New Zealand and China, as we’re both committed to growing high-value, ‘green’ manufacturing sectors,” says Hamish. “We gain significant investment into the commercialisation of certain projects while retaining or building on activities in New Zealand, and invaluable access to the Chinese market.”
Peter agrees. “This joint venture enables us to bring all the components of New Zealand’s ‘discovery machine’ together to achieve the best outcomes for the excellent science that’s generated in this country.”