Health & Wellbeing

Delivering first class chemistry solutions from Wellington to the world


Published Mar 23, 2023

In Lower Hutt, just outside of Wellington’s city centre, researchers are working with global clients to develop pharmaceutical drug candidates for use in pre-clinical and clinical studies. The work is made possible by the efforts of world-leading chemists from the Ferrier Research Institute and GlycoSyn, by way of their joint venture partnership. This capability is represented by business development managers from GlycoSyn and Wellington UniVentures offering clients a unique ‘package service’ of pharmaceutical research, from drug discovery through to development and manufacturing. Now in its eighth year, the joint venture has built up a reputation for delivery to global clients across a wide range of complex commercial drug development projects.

Deep expertise in carbohydrate and complex chemistry

The renowned chemists delivering these services are from GlycoSyn and the Ferrier Research Institute. The two organisations have been working together for 20 years. The Ferrier Research Institute was built up by Professor Richard Furneaux and is part of Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington. Professor Furneaux recently handed the Institute Directorship to Professor Gary Evans. Ferrier provides contract chemistry route development, lab-scale synthesis, and advanced analytical expertise, while GlycoSyn (a commercial arm of Callaghan Innovation) delivers downstream process development and cGMP (current good manufacturing practice) manufacturing under the leadership of General Manager, Dr Paul Benjes. Both parties work on the same site with many cross-organisation staff interactions making sure that project delivery is seamless.

Ferrier and GlycoSyn work together under the GlycoSyn brand in an open and transparent manner with clients, keeping them regularly updated on progress towards manufacturing their active compounds safely and reproducibly at a scale and, ultimately, a quality suitable for use in human clinical trials. Together, they offer first-class carbohydrate and complex synthetic and analytical chemistry expertise, with a proven track record in drug discovery, process development and manufacturing.

Researchers from the Ferrier undertake early-stage problem solving, such as establishing viable synthetic routes to complex molecules of interest. When a project is ready to move beyond laboratory scale, Ferrier researchers work alongside GlycoSyn experts in process development chemistry for larger scale production at GlycoSyn’s GMP plant conveniently located on-site. GlycoSyn’s experts specialise in developing the chemistry and analytical methods necessary to make materials safely in sufficient quantity and quality for clinical trials. The GlycoSyn GMP manufacturing plant was originally opened in 2003 to provide a dedicated scale-up facility to assist in the commercialisation of research coming out of Ferrier. This purpose has since expanded to encompass contract development and manufacturing to support clients from around the world. Working together, Ferrier and GlycoSyn offer a seamless discovery, process development and large-scale synthesis service for clients in the biotechnology industry.

Global partnerships with industry

In 2014, Ferrier and GlycoSyn joined forces with Wellington UniVentures to help broaden their global business development resource. As well as fee-for-service research, Wellington UniVentures is responsible for founding for-profit and social enterprises from Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington research.

An important feature of the joint venture partnership is that intellectual property (IP) generated during contract research remains with the client. Additionally, IP developed separately at Ferrier through their own, grant funded research programmes is available for commercialisation.

Wellington UniVentures Head of Health & Wellbeing, Dr Janice Cheng, says the joint venture has been valuable, opening the door to new business and research opportunities.

“Wellington UniVentures’ focus is on enabling innovative research to create impact in the world, and what’s been so great about this joint venture is the agility and capability of the researchers to work so closely with and meet the needs of industry clients. With this experience, we can now invest our respective teams’ capability to broaden our offerings and capture further emerging fee-for-service opportunities in the biotechnology sector,” says Janice.

Growing the joint venture

North America remains a major market with demands for the Ferrier and GlycoSyn’s expertise. To grow connections in North America, Wellington UniVentures and GlycoSyn have jointly employed Canada-based Dr Anushka Jayasuriya as the two organisations’ business development representative. Thanks to the international success it has enjoyed, the joint venture partnership is set to continue expanding its services, with his support.

“Tapping into the various talented capabilities across Ferrier and GlycoSyn gives us a competitive service offering that cannot be found to this level elsewhere. We only use experienced science staff on our projects, nearly all have PhDs and several have also completed post-docs at high-ranking universities,” says Dr Jayasuriya.

The unique offering of the joint venture partnership, which is seamless, end-to-end drug discovery, development and manufacturing of active pharmaceutical ingredients for clinical trials, invites varied and challenging commercial opportunities that keep the experts at Ferrier and GlycoSyn at the top of their game. They are always exploring innovative ways to approach drug discovery, route and process development and large-scale manufacturing to meet their clients’ needs. This service offering ranges from the sale of fine chemicals that can’t be sourced elsewhere, through to research and development contracts for client products, and to the manufacture of client products for clinical trials and provision of our own cGMP quality products for investigative use.

Ferrier Deputy Director and head of commercial projects, Dr Phillip Rendle says: “It is a privilege to be able to, through our clients, deliver tangible benefits for society. Working closely with clients, adjusting to changing requirements and overcoming technical hurdles to meet their needs is a rewarding challenge. Providing this service requires a nimbleness in resource allocation to meet client timelines, but also allows us to provide our staff stable careers in science research and keeps us current with global industry best practice.”