Cawthron Natural Compounds

A New Zealand Research Commercialisation Success Story

The Cawthron Institute in Nelson is one of only a few organisations in the world capable of producing purified marine natural toxins.

These pure toxins are now required by the world's seafood testing laboratories because of work done by Cawthron to improve international testing standards. Cawthron specialises in understanding the ecology and chemistry of marine natural toxins from a range of sources, including algae.

Some of these toxins are responsible for making seafood unsafe to eat and are subject to tight regulatory control. The global seafood testing laboratory community needs pure toxins in order to calibrate tests and ensure seafood is free of toxins. To meet this demand Cawthron has entered into a lucrative deal to supply a range of purified marine toxins to the world's largest chemical and analytical supplier, Sigma-Aldrich.

The export earning potential of these marine toxins is staggering in that as little as 1g of a marine toxin could be worth up to NZ$5 million. The deal, signed late in 2014 has already created commercial revenues to Cawthron and demonstrates that the outcomes of publicly funded research can form the basis for outstanding commercial deals that generate significant economic returns to New Zealand.

In early 2013, The Cawthron Institute brought forward a project proposal seeking funding to support commercialisation of this project. The KiwiNet Investment Committee recognised the potential value in the project, and allocated PreSeed investment to support development of the business case. Additionally, KiwiNet provided market validation support to identify potential customers for the reference materials.