Government invests in gene editing, food resilience and bioreactors

The Government will invest $14.4 million into transformative new scientific research programmes including vertical farming, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods announced today.

The investments will help find answers to some of the country’s greatest challenges – cures to deadly diseases, improving food resilience, and transitioning to a lower carbon and more productive economy, Dr Woods said.

“This kind of research will help make New Zealand’s economy more sustainable.  

“These projects demonstrate New Zealand’s growing strength in applying cutting edge technology to real-world problems. They will see companies and industry bodies partnering to perform ground-breaking research.”

Four research grants were announced today. They have the potential to:

  • deliver breakthrough immunotherapy treatment for that uses a patient’s own T-cells, modifying them to recognise and eradicate cancerous cells with a high degree of precision.
  • develop new applications of UV light to seeds and seedlings to increase plant productivity and resilience to crop stresses such as drought or disease.
  • rapidly improve the availability and quality of improved Pinus radiata tree stocks through the development of mass propagation techniques using bioreactors
  • improve livestock growth and health, and reduce insecticide use, through genetically improved endophytes that live symbiotically with perennial ryegrass.


The funding has been made available through the 2018 Partnerships Investment Round to four new sector-led research partnerships. The scheme has a focus on long term, innovative research with potential for transformative impact. More information and the full list of successful projects can be found on MBIE’s website.

Successful applicants:

Trial, manufacture and delivery of novel cancer therapies with leading Chinese BiotechThis proposal focuses on the economic benefits that can be captured in New Zealand by developing a new form of cancer therapy with potential to compete on the world stage. The organisations involved are:

  • Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, Hunan Zhaotai Enterprise Management, Malcorp Biodiscoveries Limited, and Wellington Zhaotai Therapies Limited.

Funding is worth $4,950,454.00 GST exclusive over 5 years.

Improving resource use efficiency and the environment by gene editing Epichloë endophytes. This proposal aims to establish a gene editing platform to design Epichloë endophytes. These endophytes live symbiotically with perennial ryegrass and could be customised for improved pest resistance, improved animal health and extended interval between ryegrass sowings. The organisations involved are:

  • Agresearch Limited, Grasslanz Technology Limited and PGG Wrightson Seeds Limited.

Funding is worth $4,106,665.99 GST exclusive over 7 years.

Tissue culture techniques for 21st century forests. This programme aims to deliver a reliable and cost-effective tissue culture process through the use of bioreactors and rapid production of small rooted germinants, fully harnessing the genetic improvement from the radiata pine breeding and genomics programmes. The organisations involved are:

  • Forest Growers’ Research Limited and New Zealand Forest Research Institute Limited (Scion)

Funding is worth $2,800,000.00 GST exclusive over 7 years.

Light as a trigger for clean green food production. This Partnership plans on developing applications of UV light to seeds and seedlings, the intended benefits of which are increased plant productivity, and resilience to drought or disease. They will create a ‘big data’ model to predict the best light treatment for any particular crop plant in any particular environment. The organisations involved are:

  • BioLumic Limited, T&G Global, Microsoft, Helius Theraputics, Massey University, Plant & Food Research, Miro Limited Partnership, and Bayer Crop Science.

Funding is worth $2,502,472.88 GST exclusive over 5 years.

Source: Minister of Research, Science and Innovation

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

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