Building biotech capability on the East Coast


East Coast biotech venture Hikurangi Enterprises has secured government support to strengthen existing research work and relationships with a number of research organisations around the country.

The 2017 Te Punaha Hihiko Vision Matauranga Capability Fund investment round provides $3.9 million for 32 projects aims to strengthen capability, capacity, skills and networks between Māori and the wider science and innovation system.

The Hikurangi Enterprises project will support exchanges between people involved with research and development of natural health products in the Ruatoria area and scientists at Victoria University of Wellington, Cawthron Institute in Nelson, Massey University and the Research and Technical Services division of Callaghan Innovation.

“This is an exciting opportunity for whānau here on the Coast to spend time in some of the best research labs in the world, looking over the shoulder of world-class geneticists, bio-chemists and process engineers” said managing director Panapa Ehau. “It also involves those researchers coming to spend time here on the Coast with the communities they are working for in their labs.”

Hikurangi Enterprises has research partnerships with each of the organisations investigating extracts from a range of plants, fungi and shellfish with a focus on compounds that can be used to treat a range of health conditions.

Cawthron Institute Technical Consultant Dr Matt Miller is looking forward to continuing the Institute’s relationship with Hikurangi Enterprises and hapū groups in the Ruatoria-Waiapu area.

“Through this project we’ll link Cawthron’s world class science with the next generation of Māori scientists and entrepreneurs. We aim to further indigenous capabilities in developing novel high value natural extracts.”

“This project complements research under the Sustainable Seas National Science Challenge, which seeks to develop new bioactive products to support the economic development of the East Coast,” said Dr Miller.

Hikurangi Bioactives, a joint venture between Hikurangi Enterprises and private investors, is funding post-graduate research into kānuka genetics at Victoria University of Wellington.

“Here in the Chemical Genetics Laboratory, we are well placed to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of action of extracts and compounds derived from native plants using the power of functional genomics” said Dr Andrew Munkacsi from the School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington.

“From these molecular mechanisms, we can predict commercial potential of these extracts and compounds in biomedical and agricultural settings. We have established relationships with researchers at universities abroad as well as the pharmaceutical and agricultural industries who will be able to assist with the next stages of testing any promising new agents discovered by Hikurangi Bioactives.”

Dr Munkacsi hopes young people from the East Coast will take up the opportunity to study molecular biology and genomics through the evolving relationship with Hikurangi Bioactives.

“We see huge potential in strengthening these relationships with support from the Vision Mātauranga funding” said Mr Ehau. “It’s a huge opportunity for our people to better understand ‘te rakau o te Pākehā’ that Sir Apirana Ngata encouraged us to take up while holding on tightly to the treasures our ancestors have left us.”

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  • Panapa Ehau, Managing Director, Hikurangi Enterprises: 027 200 0747
  • Nicole Taber, Communications and Marketing Advisor, Cawthron Institute:
  • Samantha Fisher, Communications Advisor, Victoria University of Wellington:

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Renata Tawhai McClutchie says:

    Well done kia kaha.

  2. Tui Qauqau says:

    Yeah… so cool. Lets hope Muriwhenua can follow in your footsteps.

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