New Zealand initiative to widen biotech industry

An initiative aimed at addressing the need for well-rounded, enterprise-savvy biotech scientists in New Zealand, will be launched at The University of Auckland next week.

Chiasma is an innovative programme designed by students for students.

The brainchild of Priv Bradoo, Swati Sharma and Daniel Sun, PhD students in the University’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Chiasma aims to foster an enterprising spirit amongst the biotech student community and build networks with the wider New Zealand biotech industry.

“The New Zealand biotech sector has huge potential, but the best and brightest students are often going offshore as they aren’t aware of the many opportunities available in this country. Through Chiasma, students will gain access to industry leaders and key organisations in the biotech industry,” says Chiasma CEO, Priv Bradoo.

Chiasma will be officially launched on Thursday, September 16 at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. Guest speakers at the launch are prominent members of the New Zealand biotech industry, including:

Professor Garth Cooper, New Zealander of the Year 2003, CEO and founder of Protemix Corp (one of the country’s leading biotech firms) and Professor of Biochemistry at the University’s School of Biological Sciences.

Dr Simon Malpas, co-founder of the new start-up Telementry Research and Senior Lecturer in Physiology in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

Dr Claire McGowan, Executive Director of the Auckland Biotech Chapter of NZ Bio.

Dean of Medical and Health Sciences Professor Peter Smith says the University is delighted with the student initiative.

“Today’s biomedical researchers are expected to operate in both commercial and academic environments. Chiasma will expose PhD students to entrepreneurial opportunities and help them establish networks in the biotech sector, says Professor Smith.

What initially started as a concept for a mentoring and careers evening has now evolved to a fully-fledged scheme complete with career training, a biomedical innovation challenge called I-Volve, biotech expos and numerous other networking opportunities. More than a hundred students have already joined Chiasma and more are expected to join following the launch.

Today, there is more to science than just looking down a microscope, and students want to leave university with the experience and skills that make them ‘job-ready’ and ‘enterprise-savvy’, says Priv.

“It’s a great initiative because postgraduate students can start interacting and working with industry while they are still studying. Researchers and businesses are very much interdependent. Business needs researchers for innovative ideas and researchers need business for funding.”

Following the launch on September 16, Chiasma will host a Careers Catalyst in October, a free two-day workshop run by the University’s Postgraduate Careers Centre. Those then taking up the I-volve Challenge later in the year go into the competition to win $5000 and mentoring opportunities.

Two biotech expos are also in the pipeline. These expos along with Chiasma’s close association with the newly formed Auckland Biotech Chapter of NZBio, will enable students to hear from industry experts and discuss recruitment options, explore internship opportunities, as well as become aware of research taking place in the industry.

Chiasma is a student-led initiative run in conjunction with its University partners: the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, the School of Biological Sciences, the Bioengineering Institute and the Business School, and its foundation sponsor: the National Research Centre for Growth and Development.

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