Leading Edge

When a top job called, Brent Pownall moved his family from Auckland to Dunedin in 2013. He often returns north on business -- and every trip reminds him why he now prefers living in the south.

"I certainly don't miss the Auckland traffic or parking," he says.

"Dunedin is a vibrant city and has a lot to offer. There's cheaper housing, no traffic jams, there's Otago University, really good schools -- with no zoning -- and a lot less rain than Auckland."

On top of that Pownall, the commercial director of cancer diagnostics firm Pacific Edge, enjoys "the beautiful scenery and outdoors of Central Otago right on our doorstep".

The firm also lured David Darling and his family from the Bay of Plenty to become its CEO in 2003, and other staff have also been attracted south.

Plenty of former Otago University students stay in the city to take up the various internships and job opportunities the growing company offers.

Despite only being formed in 2001, Pacific Edge has made great strides specialising in the discovery and commercialisation of diagnostic technology for early detection and management of cancer.

It has made the progressive decision to move from a research and development company to one that makes products based on the genes that define different types of cancers.

Core technologies include the latest molecular biology techniques, gene expression analysis and signature development, proprietary biobanks for validation, clinical trials and data, and proprietary analytical software.

The firm still invests heavily in R&D with a large portion of its staff being involved in product development. It is this link to research, the foundation of this innovative technology company, that gave rise to its Dunedin location.

There is no shortage of bright and talented people coming out of Otago University, or high-quality post-graduate researchers continuing their studies there.

While the initial plan was for the firm to rely on strategic partners for the commercialisation and marketing of its products, it has so far developed and taken three commercial products into the market itself.

The heart of the company's current commercial products is Cxbladder, used for the diagnosis and management of bladder cancer via a non-invasive urine test.

"Pacific Edge is a great company, and our products make a real difference to people with bladder cancer," says Pownall.

Pacific Edge now has a sales team as well as accredited testing laboratories both in the US -- one of its major markets -- and Dunedin.

Aside from the company's technology and products it is its people -- people with a diverse range of academic and commercial backgrounds -- that make the difference.

The firm's Dunedin-based staff come from many parts of the globe to enjoy challenging work and top facilities in a refreshing location.

While New Zealand is its home market and an important place to develop and prove new products, the lucrative market opportunities are in the US and Asia.

From that perspective it doesn't matter whether you're in Dunedin or Auckland, you are still a long flight away from your customer.

The 90-minute flight from Dunedin to Auckland is still a reasonably short hop when compared to flying or travelling within the US -- and is about the same amount of time many people in Auckland spend travelling to and from work.

- NZ Herald

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