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Iron deficiency technology takes out top commercialisation award

CEO of Massey Ventures Mark Cleaver and Riddet Institute Scientist Dr Anant Dave collecting their award on behalf of the team

A product that could help some of the 1.6 billion people globally who suffer from iron deficiency has won a top award for Massey University scientists who developed it.

The sale of the Riddet Institute’s ground-breaking science technology, FERRI PRO, to food giant Nestle was selected by four industry judges as winner of the PwC Commercial Impact Award at last night’s KiwiNet awards.

This award celebrates excellence in research commercialisation delivering outstanding innovation performance and the potential for generating significant economic impact for New Zealand.

Scientists from the institute, a Centre of Research Excellence hosted at Massey University, developed a unique technology (FERRI PRO) to help address global iron deficiency, a problem that effects more than 1.6 billion people around the world. Anaemia effects 25-30 per cent of the population and about half of these cases are due to iron deficiency.

The novel protein-iron complex, made using food-grade materials, enables fortification of food products and beverages without compromising the quality and taste, a common problem with many other fortification methods.

CEO of Massey Ventures, Mark Cleaver, says to win is an awesome acknowledgement of the technology and its impact.

“It’s a credit to the team and the technology really – you can’t sell something that’s not of quality. 

It shows we can do it and it can be done in New Zealand with great success so hopefully it inspires others to pursue commercialisation.”

The winners were recognised for their commercialisation success, which involved engaging with Nestle’s headquarters in Switzerland, establishing an exclusive trial period and ultimately negotiating the sale of the intellectual property. 

Dr Anant Dave, a Riddet Institute scientist, says receiving this award reiterates the quality of the scientific innovation taking place within the science community and acknowledges the effort put in from both sides to make this deal a success.

“We are extremely passionate, and we really do feel this is going to make a huge difference in the lives of people struggling with iron deficiency. That’s really the driving factor behind this”.

The final agreement, signed in December 2018, involves the assignment of the IP to Nestle in exchange for payments against technology transfer, commercial launch and regulatory milestones. 

KiwiNet Awards lead judge Rob Heebink, R&D Executive at Gallagher Group, says the quality of entrants this year was incredibly high. 

“Over the years we have seen a number of shifts occurring in research organisations, such an increase in commercialisation capability and more engagement with industry. This has resulted in global impact with significant benefits for New Zealand. 

“The future is bright – we have much more technology coming out of our research organisations that we can fund.”

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