Rebuilding Christchurch business: Canterbury Scientific

By Kim Triegaardt

Members of a new research project led by Canterbury Scientific. (L to R) 
Dr Aiwa Zhou, Dr Maurice Owen, John Vietch, Prof Steven Brennan,  Dr Neil Pattinson, Darrell Wang, Prof Robin Carrell. Photo / Supplied
Members of a new research project led by Canterbury Scientific. (L to R) Dr Aiwa Zhou, Dr Maurice Owen, John Vietch, Prof Steven Brennan, Dr Neil Pattinson, Darrell Wang, Prof Robin Carrell. Photo / Supplied

Canterbury Scientific Limited opened the doors to its new $1.2 million laboratory complex in Addington a few days before February's devastating earthquake.

The biotechnology company specialises in the development and production of quality controls for haematology and clinical biochemistry and boasts some of the world's top medical companies as customers.

Chief executive Dr Neil Pattinson says fortunately none of Canterbury Scientifics' export contracts, that are worth over $3 million to the company, are at risk because the laboratories came through the quake completely unscathed, give or take some broken glass and subsidence in the parking lot.

"I'm not sure how we managed it but we also didn't lose any power although we do have a generator on standby if we had," says Pattinson.

And the company has found a way to assuage the twinge of survivor guilt that's come with its good fortune.

"We are sharing our facilities with the Free Radical Research Group who had to move out of the Christchurch School of Medicine," says Pattinson.

"We've put aside a formulation lab and section in our R&D lab for them."

It's an arrangement only made possible by Canterbury Scientifics' decision early in the design planning stage of its new laboratories to future proof the facility.

"The new building is about three times the area of the building we've recently vacated," says Pattinson. "The whole idea to have more space was to ensure we'd have the room to grow over the next decade." He says Canterbury Scientific is about to sign new contracts that are predicted to increase sales to $5 million by 2013.

Until those eventuate however there is a bit of extra space that the company is happy to make some compromises over.

"A colleague of mine heads the Free Radical Research Group and asked if we could make space available. These are world-class facilities and it's an arrangement we can both benefit from as we were looking for ways to strengthen our relationship with the University of Otago Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences," says Pattison. "Their approach is a reflection of how the university and clinical school see us."

Despite the friendships and collegial atmosphere however the sensitive nature of the work at the laboratories has meant the need to formalise the relationship.

"We are putting together a Memorandum of Understanding because we want to be open and have intellectual discussions without the fear of people running off with ideas that aren't their own," says Pattinson. "At the same time however, we all know each other quite well and so from a professional point of view we believe this arrangement will work well."

"We've always wanted to have a much closer working relationship with both entities and now that we're sharing lab space, you couldn't get much closer."

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