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Global biotech giants eye investment opportunities in Wellington

7 May 2018

Representatives from two of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies were recently in Wellington to determine if some of the new science being developed here is worth collaboration or investment.

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Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer recently appeared at an industry event in Wellington, the result of collaboration between WREDA, biotech member organisation NZBIO and the Wellington Health Tech Network.

Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer attended a conference in Wellington last year but this is the first time they’ve come to specifically check out our regional research.

WREDA played a pivotal role in bringing the firms to the capital by presenting a selection of the region’s research to them which grabbed their interest and helped secure their visit.

Researchers from across the Wellington region took part including (but not limited to) teams from Victoria University, the Ferrier Institute and Avalia Immunotherapies.

WREDA Chief Executive Lance Walker says the Wellington region is being increasingly recognised as a biotech hub of excellence, with New Zealand currently ranked fourth in the world in the Scientific American Worldview behind the US, Singapore and Denmark.

“Our region’s health tech sector is enjoying commercial success led by the likes of Volpara Solutions which had 200 per cent revenue growth last year.

“Wellington also shone in the global spotlight late last year when an anti-cancer drug discovered in Wellington was approved for use in Japan.

“But the big challenge the industry faces is how to commercialise all the research and medical progress that is being made here. Building ongoing relationships with global companies like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson could be a potential game-changer for local scientists.”

Anand Gautam, Pfizer’s Head of External Science and Innovation in Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, says New Zealand life science investigators are known worldwide for their fundamental cutting-edge research in medical sciences which provide a unique opportunity for Pfizer to collaborate early and develop the concept for testing in human diseases.

“Wellington health research capabilities are impressive. WREDA has helped connect us with emerging innovators through this event, and I look forward to seeing the progress being made in the region.”

Mr Walker says Wellington has an embedded culture of innovative thinking which makes the region well-placed to build on its science successes.

“More than 3,000 people are employed in the Wellington region’s science and professional industries, Wellington has the strongest knowledge economy in New Zealand with the youngest average population and highest level of qualifications, and nearly 50 per cent of workers are in knowledge-based roles compared to the national average of 35 per cent.

“The Industry hook-up and pitching session is part of the ongoing journey to ensure Wellington remains at the cutting-edge of the knowledge economy.”

NZBIO Chief Executive Zahra Champion says science is increasingly complex and requires cross-sector, multi-disciplinary collaboration to make progress.

“NZBIO champions effective partnerships in biomedical R&D and New Zealand’s natural strengths in collaboration make this an exciting time for our sector. This event connects thought leaders from global biotech firms and Wellington’s innovators.”