A programme that fuses business and science is showing business-savvy scientists how to commercialise bioscience innovations and create opportunities in the international market.
One of these business-science professionals is Tim McCready, an alumnus of The University of Auckland who now works for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) as a business development consultant.
“I’ve always enjoyed science and seeing the transformative effect it can have on people’s lives. At the same time, a lot of exciting research falls by the wayside because of a lack of business acumen in the industry,” he says.
Deciding to do something about this gap after finishing his Bachelor of Science, McCready joined the inaugural year of the Master of Bioscience Enterprise (MBioEnt) programme in 2006. The bioscience commercialisation degree is taught conjointly by the Business School, the School of Biological Sciences and the Law School.
“I chose a masters degree focused on business because I wanted to have an impact on the innovative science coming from New Zealand, the financial contribution it can give to the New Zealand economy and the difference it makes to lives worldwide,” McCready says.
He did papers on research commercialisation, finance, accounting, marketing, law and intellectual property, followed by a thesis project in the final year.
“I learned that scientists often have little understanding of the steps involved in commercialisation because their interest, understandably, is in research. At the same time, business people with no understanding of science can’t appreciate the length of time, the amount of risk, and the enormous cost involved in commercialising human therapeutics.”
McCready’s comments are echoed by Geoff Whitcher, director of the Business School’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, who believes the MBioEnt is producing scientists with a strong business sense that will be a great help to New Zealand.
“Having an understanding of the science and commercial realities means they can help New Zealand companies to expand their international activities by taking new biotech products into export markets, thus helping New Zealand earn much-needed overseas funds,” Whitcher says.
While working on his thesis, McCready did an internship in the biotechnology team at NZTE. After finishing with first class honours he stayed with the organisation and recently shifted to Investment New Zealand, a division of NZTE focused on attracting investment to New Zealand and helping companies make strategic investments offshore.
This work has taken him to the United States three times in the past year to help New Zealand biotechnology and natural health product companies access the North American market.
Now McCready is working on a project with Living Cell Technologies (LCT), a company that breeds pathogen-free pigs from remote sub-Antarctic islands for its cell-based products to treat insulin-dependent diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases.
The LCT-Investment New Zealand project is looking into global market opportunities for high quality by-products taken from unused pig tissue, which could be used for other medical applications.
“LCT’s pig herds are uniquely free from viruses, bacteria and parasites so they are effectively the cleanest pigs in the world,” says McCready.
“This project is particularly exciting because LCT is one of New Zealand’s premier biotechnology companies making use of the country’s competitive advantage in animal health status.”