$13 million for leading-edge biotech research

The Government and the University of Waikato are investing $13 million in a new research programme in Tauranga aimed at helping tackle some of the biggest issues facing New Zealand’s primary sector, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

The project, part of the Entrepreneurial Universities programme administered by the Tertiary Education Commission, will see leading Australian-based expert Dr Marie Magnusson relocate to Tauranga to set up the programme.

“This is an exciting development for the University of Waikato, Tauranga and the whole of New Zealand,” Mr Hipkins said.

“By supporting entrepreneurship at universities, we can help strengthen innovation, build academic and industry connections and grow the pipeline of entrepreneurs.

“This type of research and technology will be critical as we look for solutions for things like reducing cattle methane emissions, limiting nutrient run-off from pasture, and fighting agricultural and horticultural diseases in an environmentally sustainable way.”

The Government is committing approximately $4 million over five years to the programme, while the University of Waikato has pledged $9 million.

The first stage will examine options for growing macroalgal species like kelp and sea lettuce alongside existing mussel farms. Later stages will extract valuable bioproducts for use in fertilisers, animal feed supplements, cosmetics and other initiatives.

Dr Magnusson will move from her role as a senior research fellow at Australia’s James Cook University in Townsville. She will be joined by other senior academics as well as post-graduate students.

Mr Hipkins says New Zealand needs to attract top research talent and the Entrepreneurial Universities initiative is one way of doing that.

Over the next three years, the initiative is expected to bring 15-20 world-leading researchers and their teams to New Zealand.
Biography of Dr Marie Magnusson

Dr Marie Magnusson is a Senior Research Fellow in the James Cook University College of Science and Engineering with over 10 years of experience in the fields of algal biology, biochemistry, and product development.

She completed her B.Sc. in 2003 at Göteborg University in Sweden followed by an M.Sc. in 2004. Her Ph.D. (2005-2009) was at James Cook University in phycology and marine pollution.

Following her graduate studies, Dr Magnusson undertook two post-doctoral fellowships at James Cook University in microalgal biomass evaluation and macroalgae end product research and development.

Dr Magnusson is currently Program Leader and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Macroalgal Resources and Biotechnology (MACRO) at James Cook University.

Her research is focused on ways to utilise algae (macro and micro) and algal extracts to develop human food and nutraceutical and pharmaceutical products for improved health outcomes, and to develop biotechnology products based on algal polysaccharides with unique gelling and functional properties.