Biotechnology Taskforce report
The government-appointed Biotechnology Taskforce released its report in May this year.
The taskforce's "Framework for Action" included the following recommendations:
- government to establish a programme for the recruitment from overseas of key scientists and entrepreneurs with the skills to establish research centres within an effective commercialisation structure;
- industry and government to establish a horizontal Biotechnology Investment Fund in the order of $200 million to stimulate the commercial development of viable biotechnology research;
- industry, Crown Research Institutes and tertiary providers to develop a best practice programme covering the interface between industry and science;
- the consolidation of existing biotechnology networks into one industry body to facilitate coordination, cooperation and partnering within the biotechnology sector;
- identification of gaps in the technology infrastructure needed to support development of the industry together with a programme for sharing the use of technology infrastructures among industry players;
- government to undertake reviews to ensure processes under the different statutes that regulate biotechnology research are streamlined and coordinated;
- government to undertake a biennial review of the compliance costs associated with biotechnology along with a study of possible tax reforms that recognise and support the long lead times involved in biotechnology research and commercialisation processes.
Hot on the heels of the Taskforce Report has been the release by the government of its Biotechnology Strategy. The government sees biotechnology growth and development being underpinned by community engagement and effective regulation. Some of the regulatory reforms include:
- enactment of the Human Assisted Reproduction Technology Bill;
- amendment of the Human Tissues Act (in light of new developments in the use of human cells and tissues) as well as the Patents Act and the Plant Variety Rights Act;
- reforms to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act that (among other things) would allow for a new release category (conditional release), that would streamline the approval process for new medicines and that would strengthen incentives for compliance by establishing liability for harm caused by non complying activities.
The government's strategy also supports some of the recommendations of the Taskforce.
For example, government is to work with industry on active recruitment and repatriation of science and entrepreneurial talent and is to support clustering and effective alliances through the biotechnology directorate through the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise agency.
In addition, government is to implement the pre-seed accelerator fund recommended by the Taskforce.
In our view, these developments can only be a positive for the biotech industry and will go a long way to providing a good platform for New Zealand-based entities to compete with the rest of the world in this important area of economic activity. Looking ahead, those in the biotech industry should:
- consider whether they are eligible for any of the extra government funding available to stimulate commercial development of biotech research;
- ensure they are actively involved with the establishment of the unified biotech industry body; and
- make the most of any opportunities to make submissions on the regulatory reforms.
Stephen Revill, Consultant,
This publication is necessarily brief and general in nature. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.