Entrepreneurship award winner announced

Dianne Gleeson has won the inaugural Women in Science Entrepreneurship Award sponsored by Pacific Channel and the Association for Women in the Sciences (AWIS).

Dr Dianne Gleeson, who oversees Landcare Research's fast-growing EcoGene® business which provides DNA-based diagnostics services that are used in biosecurity and conservation, said she was delighted to win the award.

"This award recognises the contribution made by women in the commercialisation of science and will encourage more women at the top levels of the industry where they are underrepresented," Dr Gleeson said.

"There is growing commercial demand for scientific services and women can make a valuable contribution to the development of the industry in New Zealand and overseas," she said.

Dr Gleeson receives $50,000 of venture development advice from Pacific Channel, an Auckland-based firm specialising in life-sciences and clean-technology, and will have access to a world class international advisory board with experience in science commercialisation. The winner was announced at the AWIS conference being held in Auckland on 28 July.

Runners up for the award were Dr Fern Kelly, a PhD graduate in Textile Chemistry from Victoria University, who has developed an environmentally friendly antibacterial treatment for high quality natural textiles and Rachael D'Arcy Lacy, of D'Arcy Polychrome Limited who has developed a technology to produce encapsulated dry colour pigments that are easy to formulate and mix into liquid paint.

Mitali Purohit, Associate at Pacific Channel, said it was encouraging that women with new ideas as well as those with established track records in the commercialisation of science had entered the competition.  

"It is important that women in science are actively looking at ways of commercialising their research, particularly in areas such as environmental and agricultural science where New Zealand is a world leader," Ms Purohit said.

Dr Gleeson has built an impressive CV since she gained her PhD from the Australian National University in 1996.

She leads a team of 20 scientists and post-graduate students including four at post doctorate level at EcoGene® which operates as a business unit within Landcare Research.

DNA-based analytical services provided by EcoGene® include detecting new organisms, monitoring pest species, disease monitoring and threatened species management.

In its first three years of business, EcoGene® exceeded financial and customer targets and the revenue forecast this financial year is $400,000. The unit has forward contracts with New Zealand government agencies including the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Fisheries, a significant client base in Australia and a strong profile in the market for biosecurity and conservation applications.

There is increasing demand for the unit's services from the Asia Pacific region and from South America and EcoGene® has no direct competitors in Australasia. The award will be used to assist Dr Gleeson accelerate the business' growth potential.

The panel of judges for the Women in Science Entrepreneurship competition included Dr Jilly Evans, co-founder of Amira Pharmaceuticals, which last week was sold to Bristol-Myers Squibb Co -; Sarah Gibbs co-founder of Trilogy; and Mitali Purohit. The panel of judges will form an advisory board which will be provided as part of the prize package.

The winning entry demonstrated the greatest social and commercial impact, the judges said.

More information on the competition can be found on the Pacific Channel website www.pacificchannel.com or on the AWIS website www.awis.org.nz.