A booming global biopharmaceutical industry as the world chases vaccines and therapeutics is creating strong demand for cattle and sheep blood, otherwise regarded as a waste product from abattoirs.
Big investment is flowing into companies manufacturing animal-derived sera and plasma and one of the world's leading exporters, New Zealand's Auckland BioSciences Limited (ABS), has just acquired a prominent Australian animal serum producer.
The purchase of CellSera, which has a plant in Rutherford, NSW, will add a critical new stream to ABS's product range in the form of foetal bovine serum.
Animal serum is a key ingredient for cell culture in biopharmaceutical manufacturing and is used in medical research.
FBS, CellSera's star product, supports the widest range of cell types and has the lowest levels of inhibitory proteins and antibodies. It is ideal for cell growth and used in immunotherapy, biotech research, stem-cell and vaccine production and even some COVID vaccines.
CellSera will continue to trade under its own name and ABS expects to achieve consolidated revenues of NZ$40m in the 2022 financial year.
It already exports ovine, porcine and bovine materials to 16 countries, including the European Union, Brazil, Russia, India and China, and its products were used in work on COVID vaccines.
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ABS managing director Dr John Chang said the global biopharmaceutical market size was expected to reach US$526 billion by 2025.
Over the past decade, it had been growing rapidly, he said.
"An increasing number of vaccines and therapeutics, both veterinary and human, are biological-based - such as antibody cancer immunotherapy - as opposed to chemical based," he said.
The development of COVID vaccines had absolutely increased public attention on the value and importance of this work, he said.
"We are using this opportunity to highlight how agriculture in Australia and New Zealand links into biopharmaceutical industry," he said.
"Between CellSera and ABS, we manufacture biopharmaceutical grade animal derived serum from a multiple species of animals."
Dr Chang said one of the main reasons ABS chose CellSera as its first acquisition target in Australia was the company's great reputation within the Australian meat industry.
"The previous owners, Thomas and Samantha Gehrmann, have been enjoying solid and lasting relationships with the management of various meat companies in all states and territories, for the past 17 years or so," he said.
"Due to farmers rebuilding their stock, currently there is pressure on blood supply, for sure. However, like everything else, this too is a cyclical industry so eventually we expect things will settle down."
The ABS move into Australia has caught the attention of Australian investor and innovator, Andrew Paykel, of Fisher and Paykel fame, among other big investors.
In a statement, Mr Paykel made mention of ABS's premium market position and said it was well-positioned to capture a large addressable global vaccine market and had well-considered growth plans.
He said the CellSera acquisition brought ABS closer to a larger supply chain and the sterile facilities at Rutherford would assist greatly with the company's growth aspirations.
By the close of this quarter, ABS will operate three processing facilities in Australasia.
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