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NZBIO Conference 2017: ‘Global Mega Trends’

The NZBIO 2017 Annual Conference was held on 12th & 13th October at Te Wharewaka o Poneke in Wellington. This year, the theme of the conference was ‘Global Mega Trends’ where we gathered to explore some of the biggest opportunities evolving in biotech across the world today. With world-leading entrepreneurs, investors, scientists, and people at the forefront of biotech gathered together, exciting conversations and ideas were shared around the room. Many of us left inspired and excited about the future of New Zealand’s biotechnology industry.

Some of us Masters of Bioscience Enterprise students and Chiasma committee members had the opportunity to attend the conference.

From left to right: Ileshaa Makan, Celeste Peh, Nawaz Ahmed, Sandanee Samarakoon, Pooja Bharamappa, Vincent Angga Gunawan  

From left to right: Ileshaa Makan, Celeste Peh, Nawaz Ahmed, Sandanee Samarakoon, Pooja Bharamappa, Vincent Angga Gunawan  

Here are 3 major trends that stood out:

Exponential Technologies

Robin Farmanfarmaian, serial entrepreneur and futurist, kicked off the conference with a load of positive energy and talked about the disruptive technologies in health. 3D printed stethoscope – the most fundamental medical device – 3D printing food on demand, augmented reality for medical surgeries, sequencing genomes at home, just to list a few. At the pace of technology evolution, your futuristic imaginations will be possible in the near future.

Robin’s advice for her 20-year old self: “Technology is moving so quickly, there will be lots of solutions in the near future, take control of your health and explore technology to help.”

Pick Robin Farmanfarmaian’s brain here.

Synthetic foods

Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, alerted the crowd to the emergence of synthetic foods as ‘mainstream’ and considered ‘natural’ within the next 10 to 15 years. He considers this emergence of synthetic milk and meat, in particular, as the largest current threat to the New Zealand economy. Although it seems like consumer perceptions of synthetic foods will be a barrier to synthetic foods becoming mainstream, Sir Peter Gluckman argued that “What is ‘natural’ is what you grow up with.” He believes that the issues around synthetic foods have now either been addressed, soon would be, or were minor.

New Zealand, it is time to respond appropriately to the quickly changing world.

Read more here.


“In the simplest terms, de-extinction refers to the use of advanced biotechnology to attempt to bring back extinct species.” Yes, you read that right, we may be able to bring back the Woolly Mammoth and other extinct species and go back to the pre-modern ecosystem.

The de-extinction problem, which, in the 20th century was a scientific and political problem, may now be turn into an “engineering problem”. This is because we now have the scientific tools for species resurrection such as cloning ancient DNA analysis, genome sequencing, CRISPR genome editing, and splicing. As with any engineering problem, with the right people, smart investments, right tool, smart policies, engineering problems are solvable.

However, before we push GO with reviving any species there are questions we need to ask because this would fundamentally change our relationship with nature. Questions such as: 1. Consequential moral hazard of ignoring endangered species and thinking we could easily revive extinct species; 2. Opportunity cost spent on reviving extinct species rather than saving endangered species; 3. Which species to revive and why, should we revive charismatic or cultural animals, or those that are most important to a functioning ecosystem? Amy also discussed these questions more in-depth in a Tedx talk here.

To close the conference off, some of our very own Chiasma Auckland and Wellington members represented us at the Future Entrepreneurs Forum, a panel discussion. The strong representation of females (5 out of 7!) among the crowd of suits really stood out.

I hope this blog inspired and excited all you future scientists, entrepreneurs, techies, whatever you wish to be to strive towards your goal. The future is yours to shape. 😊

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect that of Chiasma’s as an organisation