Brendon Green, founder of ABNZ, talks Brand New Zealand and preparing for the launch the company's first commercial product.
What does the business do?
Advanced Biotech NZ (ABNZ) is a bio-tech development company which established in May 2016 to develop a pharmaceutical collagen operation to serve the US wound care market which is estimated as $20 billion per year.
Collagen is a protein found in cow hides that effectively holds skin tissue together. Over the last year work has been undertaken to define the product mix with segments of the pharmaceutical collagen industry. In the US it is estimated that over 5 million patients suffer from chronic wounds annually and with an ageing population the demand for wound care products is a growth market.
We're currently working with a US company called Sustain Biotech.
What was the motivation for starting the business?
We saw an opportunity in the market and the fundamentals are strong. The impetus came from learnings about challenges facing the US with regard to the quality of source raw materials that are used for xenotransplant and medical device applications.
Heart valves, pericardiums and collagen materials are derived from animal sources and with cases of BSE aka Mad Cow Disease, guidelines were introduced in the US around biosecurity controls for animals used. In the US there are guidelines around what they call closed herds; a process where you have traceability programmes to ensure the herds are used for raw materials in the pharmaceuticals sector have a strong biosecurity signature.
New Zealand, as an island nation with entrenched biosecurity & animal welfare programs, is ideally suited - and in many ways unique - as a country to provide raw materials, and further to manufacture products in country. The plan for ABNZ is to provide a bullet proof supply of collagen products that utilises New Zealand's inherent practices and reinforces it with prescribed protocols around traceability that extends to prior hereditary breeding.
What's the long term plan for ABNZ?
We want to get this up and running ideally by the end of this year or early next year. We want to start with one product going to market. Beyond that, once we establish first products to market we'll then build high vee products around it. We're starting with a product with a customer base we can access.
How much competition are you facing in the market?
There are existing parties in the market but it's a very fragmented market and what sets us apart is we'll provide a product that meets US STA requirements and our supply chain goes right back to the farm. We're looking at market disruption around providing a point of difference where when we provide the product we can take the customer right back to where the actual source material came from, the herd itself and the history of those animals, which is quite unique in this space.
Surround yourself with good people, have a clear vision of what it is you are trying to achieve, stay focused and listen.
Do you think Brand New Zealand will catapult ABNZ to success?
It does help but it needs to be deeper than that. New Zealand stands out as the ideal place to source these materials but we're taking it a lot further than that. We've been working with Silver Fern Farms and they've got a very deep process around their traceability programme and we're working with AgResearch's and Massey University which are both supporting us as we develop our IP sector.
We don't just turn up and say 'we're from New Zealand', we say; 'we care about the product we're supplying, where it comes from, and it happens to come from New Zealand'. The New Zealand story is part of it but we're not riding off that.
What's the biggest challenge you face getting ABNZ off the ground?
A big challenge is capital markets in New Zealand are quite thin so we've had to do a lot of this work on our own. The other challenge was getting clarity around the US market, and that's where the relationship with Sustain has enabled us to get a strong sight on those would buy our products. It's been challenging but our way of addressing those challenges was to establish relationships with parties that have specific expertise. It has taken us time but we feel we have a strong platform of expertise to take this from concept to reality, and we're about to embark on trials.
What advice do you give to others thinking of starting their own business?
Surround yourself with good people, have a clear vision of what it is you are trying to achieve, stay focused and listen - listen to what people in the space have to say.