Investment from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology is helping
New Zealand nanotechnology company Izon
Science forge ahead with research and development (R+D) despite the recession.
The Foundation has approved a $500,000 investment by its TechNZ arm to help
formerly Australo - carry out R&D which will deliver the scientific evidence
that the company’s diagnostic and monitoring technology is consistent,
“In the current economic climate, where money is particularly tight,
the TechNZ funding is
very helpful in allowing us to keep growing,” says Izon Science Chairman
Hans van der
Voorn. “We started 2008 with five staff and ended it with 19, including
summer students. The TechNZ investment really does make a difference to us and
us to eventually make a difference to the New Zealand economy.”
Formed in 2005, Izon has developed a portable, low cost, highly effective
accurately identifying, measuring, manipulating and monitoring nanoparticles
as they pass
through a hole or aperture. Its technology platform, Scanning Ion Occlusion
(SIOS), detects individual particles passing through the hole with one of the
applications being accurate virus measurements.
Beta versions of Izon’s instruments and systems have been sold to researchers
Netherlands, Japan, Taiwan, Denmark, United Kingdom and Belgium. Each instrument
is supported by the ongoing supply of the flexible nanopores themselves, which
but need to be regularly replaced.
Mr van der Voorn says Izon has made huge progress in the past three years.
version of its instrument, which required special grade power supply and an
scale amplifier set, has been replaced by a robust device the size of a domestic
grinder, powered through a USB port and able to detect and control single particles
TechNZ Sector Business Manager Lins Kerr says the latest TechNZ investment
continue development of new technology with potential uses in research markets.
“It is important for TechNZ to be investing in niche research areas that
have high potential
payback, but involve complex technical challenges and a certain level of risk.
“TechNZ has a strong record of investing in successful development of
medical devices and
the Izon investment, which loosely fits into that sector, will help the company
barriers to international sales,” says Mr Kerr. “Medical devices
are a key strength for New
Zealand – we are adept at producing small, highly valuable pieces of equipment
wanted in medical biotechnology markets overseas.”
An earlier TechNZ investment of around half a million dollars in Izon Science
development of the company’s initial invention. Mr van der Voorn says
the latest investment
will help the company achieve consistent production and sizing of the aperture
pass through during testing, and also develop a pressurised system that will
allow users to
very accurately determine particle concentration in tiny sample volumes of fluid.
“The project will expand the body of knowledge about the technology as
well as developing
some new products including a next generation virus counter and an instrument
Ultimately, says Mr van der Voorn, Izon’s ambition is to have its technology
become the gold
standard in the measurement of nanoparticles, viruses and biomolecules. To support
this it is
continuing to make its instruments smaller and lighter with a goal of having
available for use in a wide range of research environments including laboratories,
in the field.
Izon has a number of collaborations underway with partners using its technology
new ground. Researchers at Victoria University, for example, are using it to
study the viral
load on coral reefs, the National Centre for Biosecurity and Infectious Disease
is carrying out
influenza virus research and the National Institute for Advanced Industrial
Technology in Japan is researching nanoparticle sizing.
Other New Zealand-based research partners include Industrial Research Limited,
MacDiarmid Institute, the University of Auckland and Cawthron. MIT, University
Queensland, University of California and Oxford University are other partners
Izon is working
Izon’s recent name change is part of a re-branding exercise for the company,
says Mr van
der Voorn, designed to clear up confusion in the marketplace. “People
thought we were an
Australian company which is not necessarily a useful look when you are trying
to do deals.
We are proud Kiwis with a strong national tradition behind us and we needed
confusion to make that work for us.”