Chiasma Launch 2008 – Review


Congratulations to Lillian Kuan (CEO) and Carthur Wan (COO) for a successful 2008 Chiasma Launch. Being the Chairperson this year it was finally great to sit back, relax (well at least try to) and let the night unfold.

Apart from being brilliantly on time (us Chiasma folk like to keep strict event schedules), both Lillian and Carthur delivered confident speeches. Following Lillian’s ‘What is Chiasma?’ speech, Simon Yarrow describing his career background stemming back to the University of Auckland and educated the audience on the technology behind EnCoate. It is great to see a young Auckland Uni graduate leading a New Zealand Biotech start up (it is on my to do list as well ). Sean Simpson showed clearly he is passionate about his science, but also has an appreciation and experience in the commericalisation of it. He has an extensive background and has traveled around the globe following his science from Pakistan to Japan. He draws similarity to Colin Green (CoDA Therapeutics) and Steve Henry (KODE Biotech) where the founder has stepped aside to take on the CSO role.

Speaker blurbs:

Simon Yarrow-CEO Encoate:

Simon completed a conjoint BSc/BCom and Masters Degree at the University of Auckland. He has held positions as Business Manager for the Human Health and Nutrition division of Fonterra and as Regional Marketing Executive for South East Asia, and more recently General Manager of Diagnostics at Dairy Farmer Cooperative LIC. Simon is now CEO of EnCoate™ – A company focused on developing and commercialising technology that stabilises bacteria for use in probiotics, biocontrol agents and seed coatings.


Dr. Sean Simpson – Co-Founder and CSO – LanzaTech:

Sean is an international expert on biofuels and ethanol production technology. In 2005 Sean co-founded LanzaTech and currently serves as its Chief Scientific Officer. LanzaTech has developed a technology to allow high volume industrial waste streams to become a resource for bio-ethanol production. The company recently received Series A funding from US-based Khosla Ventures to establish a pilot plant and perform the engineering work to prepare for commercial-scale ethanol production.


From my point of view both of the companies are built on great technology. But due to the sexiness (like CSI does for forensics) of other biotech fields particularly the life sciences in the eyes of science students, technology such as EnCoate and Lanzatech’s often take a back seat as biotech innovations that involve bacteria and fermentations are simply not sexy science. Our role in Chiasma is to dig up and profile these great examples of NZ Biotech to educate an otherwise unaware student community.

Lanzatech’s technology converts carbon monoxide, from industrial fume gases or combusted biowaste, into bioethanol using a fermentation process. The two key impressive catches to this technology is that 1: by burning biomass you can recover alot more of the organic content, converting it into more biofuel. This is unlike 2nd generation biofuels which separate out the cellulose (raw material of bioethanol) from lignin ( used in Lanzatechs method). 2: Due to the Kyoto protocol, most organisations that leave a carbon footprint will at some point need to offset it, costing $. Those that produce industrial fume gasses will be hit hardest by this regulation, requiring them to purchase carbon credits. By utilising Lanzatech’s technology, not only can they reduce their emmissions by converting it into biofuel but they can also sell the biofuel on top of this. Suddenly producing waste becomes profitable ( I am putting together an outline of the carbon credit system in NZ to help both me and others to understand what exactly is going on )

Both speakers finished off by giving great endorsements for Chiasma. Sean even went on to lay down the terms for employment to start bringing on young scientists.

I also got to catch up with Will Barker and Shelley Rowland – Baldwins, Anton Gibson – Aj Park, James Obern – Cranleigh Merchant Bankers and finally met up with James Daniell, a biotech undergraduate student who I have been in contact with prior to the launch discussing the biotech entrepreneurship at the University.

We also had the presence of Margot Bethell, NZBio’s Auckland director, the Spark Team, Telemetry Research, Biomatters and CoDa Therapeutics


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