20 February 2023

Capital city connectors

New Zealand’s coolest little capital is a powerhouse for life science research, and Wellington UniVentures is helping take Wellington’s knowledge to the world.

Dr Janice Cheng leads Wellington UniVentures’ Health & Wellbeing team, which specialises in translating life sciences innovations from Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington into real world impacts.

Janice Cheng

Janice says that giving an idea the best chance of success relies on wide-ranging skills and passion: “There’s the intellectual side of being able to understand the technology and what is new or interesting about it so we can position it to the right investor or market. There’s also the ability to connect with people, especially scientists. It helps that my team still see ourselves as scientists.”

She talks about having the ability to put a discovery in context—what problem could this solve, and what is the biggest problem it could solve? Intellectual property management to protect an idea and working around what is already patented is also essential.

 “We often feel like translators, people who understand what is truly unique about an idea but also what is truly inventive in terms of what is already out there. We can also pull in IP experts and portfolio managers and provide market research to guide inventors down the right path to make good decisions.”

As well as research commercialisation, Wellington UniVentures connects industry and government to world-leading commissioned research and advisory services within Te Herenga Waka.

Wellington UniVentures approaches this task with the understanding that Te Herenga Waka researchers represent some of the very best knowledge in New Zealand across a broad range of topics.

“We want to make it easy for our researchers by finding, securing and administering contracts, so that they can focus on what they do best: applying their expertise to solving real world problems.

“From developing new drugs to shaping government policy, there is so much potential for impact through commissioned research and advisory.”

Looking ahead, Jancie is realistic about the challenges facing the innovation ecosystem but is optimistic about Wellington’s place as a growing biotechnology hub.

“The world is facing an economic downturn, and with that there will be more scrutiny around where people place their investment. But there is always going to be a place for really good ideas that solve long-term problems around health, climate, agriculture – these issues aren’t going away.”

High quality research can also spin-out into new companies that attract and retain talent, contributing to a dynamic and strong domestic economy.

Janice invites investors to get in touch for early access to exciting opportunities that have been thoroughly assessed by her team of commercailisation professionals. “We are extremely well connected across the research happening at the University – we see a lot of early-stage inventions and ideas.

“We have a rigorous and robust screening process that we put invention disclosures through, which ensures the inventions we move forward with through commercialisation have solid ground to stand on, both in terms of a legal position and responding to a commercial need.

“We have truly world-renowned life sciences research here at Te Herenga Waka, and there is lots of opportunity for growth in both commercialisation and commissioned research and advisory. We’re excited about the future.”


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