A skin cancer prevention tool, biodegradable plastic packaging, and a special type of paint that can change the behaviour of cells, bacteria and viruses are all projects that have earned researchers a finalist position in the KiwiNet Research Commercialisation Awards.
There are 12 finalists for the awards, designed to celebrate commercialisation success in New Zealand universities and Crown Research Institutes.
The Kiwi Innovation Network (KiwiNet) is a consortium of 16 universities, Crown Research Institutes and a Crown Entity established to boost commercial outcomes from publicly funded research.
"We've uncovered another stellar group of innovation game changers from across New Zealand," KiwiNet chief executive James Hutchinson said.
"These researchers are showing how innovative Kiwi science is driving prosperity, adding value to our economy and taking our technology to the world."
Winners of the KiwiNet Awards 2017 will be announced at an evening reception on 13 July in Auckland.
Norman F. B. Barry Foundation Emerging Innovator Award:
• Dr Saad Hussain from Scion is growing New Zealand's forest-based bioeconomy packaging innovations by creating longer-lasting packaging for international companies.
He is also looking into the mechanics of foam properties and is developing industrially compostable plastic for things such as yoghurt cartons or water bottles.
• A hospital complex in Christchurch is already using Dr Geoff Rodgers' mechanical seismic dampers - designed to dissipate kinetic energy from seismic waves entering a building structure.
Rodgers, from the University of Canterbury, is also developing a new method for early detection of wear and tear in hip joint implants. The technology monitors the vibration levels emitted from the implants while the patient is moving and allows doctors to figure out what condition the implant is in.
• Dr Daniel Xu from the University of Auckland and Spark 64 has produced UVLens®, a personal UV management tool which aims to educate young children on UV risks and instil sun smart behaviour early on.
The technology also provides adults with real-time UV information, alerts and recommendations. The UVLens® Weather Kit contains sensors and software to measure the local UV, temperature, rainfall, and more at a site.
The technology integrates into mobile apps, websites, email and social media.
Baldwins Researcher Entrepreneur Award:
• Professor Richard Furneaux of the Victoria University of Wellington is recognised for his carbohydrate chemistry innovations.
Innovations from Furneaux and his team include the first New Zealand-developed drug to gain registration since the 1980s and a breakthrough synthetic vaccine to treat cancer, allergies and autoimmune diseases.
• A special bioactive paint comes out of Kode Technology, developed by professor Steve Henry of Auckland University of Technology and Kode Biotech.
The technology revolves around modifying surfaces, like those of cells. The only way to improve or change what cells do is to modify them.
The new method for modifying cell surfaces opens up possibilities for therapeutics and diagnostics.
• Emotionally intelligent avatars have earned Dr Mark Sagar from the University of Auckland and Soul Machines a spot on the finalist list.
His avatars can recognise emotional expression by analysing facial expressions and vocal expression in real time.
The avatar can detect a change in the emotional state of the person talking to it, and it can be met with an appropriate emotional response from the avatar - which may be expressed both verbally and non-verbally.
MinterEllisonRuddWatts Research and Business Partnership Award:
• Moving people and equipment from the sea to the land is one of the most complex tasks completed by the New Zealand Defence Force, but is now made easier with Defence Technology Agency and MetOcean Solutions' software safety tool for beach landings: SurfZoneView.
Based on high quality hydrodynamic modelling, the program allows a rapid and accurate assessment of the waves and currents at any coastal location. Clear, easy-to-use maps of the nearshore conditions are displayed, and tools to assist with operational decision-making provided.
• A substantial pipeline of novel cancer treatments is being developed by the Malaghan Institute (MIMR) and the Hunan Zhaotai Medical Group (HZMG). The groups are trialling CAR-T cell immunotherapies for cancer.
Initial indications that show their products could offer effective treatment at lower doses could translate to improvements in the safety of the treatment, as well as time and cost for manufacture.
CAR-T therapies act like a living drug as a patient's own immune cells are engineered to harness the power of their immune system to recognise and attack tumours.
• University of Auckland, Orion Health and Waitemata District Health Board are developing Precision Driven Health, a program which harnesses New Zealand's existing electronic healthcare data and research capability to help develop data-driven healthcare solutions that could be used globally.
It is enabled when all information about an individual - including his or her genetic and social profile - is available as part of an electronic health record, accessible by clinicians in real time.
PwC Commercial Deal Award:
• Unravelling DNA mixtures to solve crime is the aim of ESR: STRmix's project.
The expert software system is designed by researchers at ESR and Forensic Science South Australia (FSSA), and used by DNA reporting analysts for the interpretation of forensic DNA profiles, with particular application to complex DNA mixtures with no restriction on the number of contributors.
The concepts applied and the way that the system works are able to be understood by DNA scientists with an appropriate background in DNA statistics and are able to be explained in court.
• Viclink also has a spot on the list for its work in licensing medical drug compounds from Victoria University of Wellington to Biocryst.
Under this licensing deal, four generations of novel compounds (covered by over 160 granted patents) have yielded six lead drug candidates with applications as diverse as cancer, gout, psoriasis, transplant rejection and malaria, as well as yielding potential treatments for ebola, zika and marburg viruses.
• UniServices: Soul Machines is creating technology to humanise the interface between man and machines.
Dr Mark Sagar, with his engineering and research team, developed two technologies: Facemaker designed to rapidly and reliably create avatar faces based on real human anatomy and physiology, and Baby X, the first avatar created by him. Baby X technology provides an emotional and social reasoning platform to existing and developing intelligence in the Artificial Intelligence industry.