A Tauranga-based scientist who developed honey-based products with anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties is a finalist for New Zealand's Innovator of the Year award.

Shaun Holt is co-founder and science director of HoneyLab, which is conducting the world's largest clinical research programme on the medical use of honey and bee products for dermatology, nutrition and pain management.

Two other finalists, Auckland's Peter Beck and the BCS Group, are vying for the Sanitarium-sponsored award being run in conjunction with the New Zealander of the Year Award.

Event spokesman Nick Gowland said Professor Holt and his team had uncovered the science behind the medicinal use of honey from New Zealand-grown kanuka.


"These natural products are a solution to counter antibiotic resistance, a serious concern for pharmaceutical and drug companies." HoneyLab had turned a commodity which normally returned about $20 a kilogram to beekeepers into a medicine that can retail for up to $3000 a kilo, he said.

Prof Holt told the Bay of Plenty Times last year that New Zealand had the potential to harvest multi-billion dollar returns from pharmaceutical honey applications.

HoneyLab focused almost exclusively on pharmaceutical applications for medical honey and bee venom, and devoted about 80 per cent of available funding to research.

"Our aim is to develop intellectual property in terms of product research that we can license to major global pharmaceutical companies," he said.

The company's products were produced from kanuka honey, rather than the manuka honey that is more commonly associated with medical benefits. Professor Holt said honey from both manuka and kanuka contained significant anti-microbial qualities.

Although the company was not interested in building up its own branded range, it had taken three basic products through development and manufacturing to prove the concept. Tauriko-based nutraceuticals manufacturer Health House manufactures the products for HoneyLab.

Prof Holt said that while the bee venom products were important, the main focus of the business was on developing honey-based treatments.