Dr Robert Corish, medical director, Supreme Biotechnologies, which makes the antioxidant AstaSupreme™ astaxanthin

Supreme Biotechnologies has recently received a new investment that will allow its astaxanthin production capacity to double. Supreme Biotech set up in Nelson four years ago and undertook two years of R&D before establishing its pilot astaxanthin plant in March 2010. Supreme Biotech chose Nelson for its original pilot programme because it has a front row seat in the aqua-culture region of New Zealand.

What part has research and development played in your products and any updated versions over the years?

As far as end products go, our main product area is in consumer health and wellness. Our products are dietary supplements based on specific medical conditions such as arthritis, eye health, cardiac health and skin health. All of our products are "captained" by the super antioxidant - astaxanthin which is made by our algae here in Nelson. Astaxanthin is quickly gaining ground in the consumer market, ever since it was featured and promoted by Dr. Oz on TV.

As the health and wellness industry grows - astaxanthin will play a bigger part in both prevention and therapeutics. As a major producer of astaxanthin it will position us well in the future.


What does your research and development involve at the moment?

Most of our research at the moment involves the algae growing process, our main goal is to produce a robust, healthy and happy algae - this will translate into a fully energized astaxanthin product which is immediately processed and encapsulated for consumer use.
In biotechnology, R & D is an ever-ongoing exercise and therefore everyday involves new concepts, upgrading, testing and reviews.

Do you have an R & D department or staff who specialise in it?

We have one person, Elissa Smith, essentially dedicated full time to R&D. Elissa is about to be sponsored by Supreme Biotech to pursue a PhD in algae science - obviously we are very excited about this opportunity to participate in her continued education. We also have another lab technician who has embraced this new technology and now runs her own experiments, particularly in the nutritional area for the algae - she has done amazing work in this area and chief of operations, Rob Cooke is continuously tweaking instrumentation for improved algae fitness.

What sort of percentage of revenue would you devote annually to R & D?

Originally R & D took over 50 per cent of our funding - the reason for this was that we were still pioneering this technology and we were essentially writing the book which involved a lot of trial and error to get it just right. Now that we have passed this phase, and have an operating system, consequently we dedicate around 15 to 20 per cent of our revenues towards R&D.

Have you applied for and received grants to help with R & D? With any particular parties?

Yes, we have received and continue to have support and funding from The Ministry of Science and Innovation.

Next week: For many small businesses in New Zealand, they can't find the materials to manufacture locally or there is a factory in Korea or India just doing it so well and so efficiently, that it is the best option. Tell us your overseas manufacturing stories. It can be pioneering stuff.