Government Opens New Research And Innovation Hub

This is Dr Ayesha Verrall
Minister of Research, Science and Innovation

The Government has invested $7.7 million in a research innovation hub which was officially opened today by Minister of Research, Science and Innovation Dr Ayesha Verrall.

The new facility named Te Pā Harakeke Flexible Labs comprises 560 square meters of new laboratory space for research staff and is based at Callaghan Innovation’s Gracefield Innovation Quarter site in Lower Hutt.

“Today’s opening of newly built cutting-edge lab facilities provides space to undertake more impactful research using new technologies. And could be used for things such as developing new vaccines for fighting COVID-19,” Research, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said.

“Constructing new research facilities is part of a broader plan to improve the opportunities for researchers and industry alike to freely collaborate and make the most of skills and technologies we have available across Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Innovation hubs are important catalysts of innovation where research groups are co-located to promote collaboration.

“We want to see a more connected, resilient and adaptable research, science and innovation sector and this is a key aim of our system-wide review of the sector through the Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways programme.

“These new state-of-the-art facilities are a prime example of the positive changes that are already underway in the sector. This modular, flexible “turn-key” type of lab can enable scientists, researchers, innovators to carry out their work without having to build their own capital-intensive facilities.

“Te Pā Harakeke will be occupied by Callaghan Innovation’s partner the Ferrier Research Institute. The Institute is a team of carbohydrate, analytical and bio-chemistry experts and will work on site with lipid nanoparticles to build research and manufacturing capability for mRNA vaccines and related technologies.

“This will help strengthen our vaccine research capability, including resilience against infectious diseases. Earlier this year, the Government announced a $40.7 million investment to create a platform to grow our domestic RNA research base and connect this with industry to facilitate the production of new vaccines, treatments and diagnostics that can support wellbeing and better health outcomes for New Zealanders. As well as responding to COVID-19 this has the exciting potential to begin to address the treatment of cancers as well as neuro-degenerative diseases.

“The Government is also boosting our pandemic resilience and preparedness for future pandemics in other areas such as through our $36 million investment in an Infectious Diseases Research Platform. The Ferrier Research Institute is contributing to this work”

“It was also great to see the development of the new facility supporting the local economy. Callaghan Innovation worked closely with Lower Hutt-based firm Niche Modular to build the innovative and unique laboratories in a nearby factory, before they were relocated to their current site,” Dr Verrall said.

Notes:

Gracefield Innovation Quarter:

· Callaghan Innovation’s Gracefield Innovation Quarter comprises workshops, pilot plants, laboratories and equipment, and measurement facilities. The site is occupied by scientists, researchers and technicians, along with business tenants.

· The opening of Te Pā Harakeke enables key Ferrier Research Institute of Victoria University of Wellington, to transition from end-of-life laboratory and office spaces to new, functional, safe and compliant workspaces.

· The new facility comprises 560 square meters of new laboratory space for Ferrier Research staff

RNA technology:

· RNA is the software that runs the cells within our bodies – it carries information from the genes (the DNA) to the ‘factories’ that make proteins.

· A messenger RNA or mRNA vaccine is essentially a code that, when it enters a cell, tells it to make a specific protein that can then help protect against a specific disease.

· The Government’s RNA Technology Development platform is aimed at helping put New Zealand researchers at the forefront of global efforts by increasing domestic and international collaborations. The platform will be run through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Strategic Science Investment Fund.

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