New Zealand produces internationally significant scientific research, with core strengths in the areas of human health research, agriculture, forestry, animal research, and forensic and environmental sciences. 


New Zealand exported NZ$510mn of biotech products in 2015, up NZ$281mn (123 percent) since 2005. Total exports of medicaments for the year 2015 were valued at NZ$244mn that is a 99 percent increase since 2005. Vacines for veterinary medicine account for 94% of the vacines’ export. 

Our achievements include anti-cancer therapies, a patented asthma vaccine and various medical technologies such as the premature baby cooling cap, heated humidification devices and orthopaedic implants. Historically, New Zealander Colin Murdoch invented the disposable syringe and Maurice Wilkins enabled DNA discoveries.

New Zealand's geographic isolation is a natural advantage and has helped maintain our animal disease-free status, which is recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health. This is reinforced with our strict biosecurity regime.

Our research and development facilities combine scientific excellence and manufacturing best practice. We have a 'gold standard' regulatory regime and conform to the highest international ethical standards. The majority of our products are CE and FDA approved.

We work within a stable, cost competitive business environment, with research and development costs at around half the cost of Europe and the United States.

New Zealand biotech research

A multitude of companies and government agencies undertake specialist biotechnology research in New Zealand. Some current research activities and achievements include:

  • animal genomics - the discovery of genes and gene functions in cattle, deer  and sheep
  • animal reproductive technologies - fertility, ovulation control, reproductive physiology, pregnancy establishment, and embryology
  • asthma and tuberculosis research, including the patenting of an asthma vaccine
  • bioprocessing research - biochemical extraction, separation and the manufacture of molecules
  • biomaterials research - manipulating plant cells into other materials such as bioplastics and biopolymers
  • development of new foods and flavours
  • extraction and development of nutritional supplements to improve and maintain muscle growth

Bioactive ingredients

New Zealand's bioactive companies are specialised and have a strong focus on ingredients. Bioactive ingredients derived from native New Zealand sources include:

  • Manuka honey: Some strains of honey made from flower nectar of the native manuka tree contain potent antibacterial properties. Manuka honey is used by  New Zealand companies making honey-based wound-care products, skin care products, functional foods, and food supplements.
  • Horopito: The bioactive ingredients from the flowering plant horopito compare favourably with other alternatives. New Zealand companies are using horopito extracts in preparations to restore healthy levels of microflora in humans and in topical antibacterial products.
  • Green lipped mussel extract: The native shellfish contain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which several companies are extracting as powders with anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Totara extract: An extract from the totara tree has been found to have potent antibacterial activity. A New Zealand company sustainably sources this extract (called Totarol®). It is used commercially in skin, body and oral care products globally.
  • Blackcurrants: Relatively high levels of ultraviolet radiation in New Zealand contribute to higher levels of anthocyanins and other phytochemicals than blackcurrants grown in other countries.
  • Avocado: Avocados grown in New Zealand's semi-tropical areas have been found to have high levels of beta-sistosterol, a naturally-occurring plant compound. Cold-pressed extra virgin avocado oils are used as a base for  skincare products.
  • Colostrum: Colostrum is milk produced in the few days after giving birth and  contains immunoglobins that boost immunity. Several New Zealand companies purify colostrum from cows and sheep into powders used for nutritional  supplements.

Click here for more information on New Zealand's bioactives, or natural products, products and services.

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