SCIENT 703 : Frontiers in Biotechnology


2021 Semester Two (1215) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

An examination of how breakthrough discoveries in contemporary life sciences flow through to commercialisation. Current and emerging applications of biotechnology; includes guest lectures from New Zealand's leading biotechnologists and case studies focused particularly on medical applications.

Course Overview

This course describes the most important technology driving innovation in biotechnology and provides examples of how this technology flows through to business. It combines specialist academic lectures on a number of hot areas of biotechnology with guest lectures from scientists and business leaders currently commercialising biotechnology discoveries within New Zealand. It also provides background information necessary to understanding major focus areas in contemporary biotechnology, with summaries of key knowledge in human biology, plant biology, and microbiology. Case examples of biotechnology discoveries are examined in group work, from first publication of scientific discovery through to commercialisation. Although the focus of the course is on applications to human health, reflecting the sector of greatest value, the course also covers biotechnology in agriculture and food science, as well as industrial and environmental applications.

The skills developed in this course are particularly useful for those wishing to have a career involving both science and business. With ample exposure to leading scientists and business leaders, the course also provides opportunities for networking and relationship building which could lead to an internship for those enrolled in the Bioscience Enterprise Programme. 

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Analyse a prospective biotech product from a scientific perspective and summarise its potential on the market to stakeholders. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)
  2. Describe the journey of a scientific discovery from its first appearance in the scientific literature through to a viable biotech product. (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)
  3. Be able to reason around all of the "hot" biotech topics covered in the course (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Quizzes 5% Individual Test
Essay 30% Individual Coursework
Presentation 30% Group Coursework
Discussions 5% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 30% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3
Final Exam

Key Topics

A separate lecture schedule will be presented at the first lecture, and posted on CANVAS. 

Note that five or six of the lecture occasions are centred around themes (e.g. Pharma, Genetics, Gene Biotech, Plants and Immunity). Each of these consists of 1-3 lectures delivered by invited guest speakers with relevant insights in either the science or the business perspective of the theme. The course coordinator will be posting a quiz in the week prior to each of these themed events to encourage students to find out more about the guest lecturers and their area of expertise before the lectures proceed. Answers should be submitted via CANVAS before midnight the following Sunday and results will be live on CANVAS by 10 am the following Tuesday.  Combined, the five quizzes make up 5% of the full course mark.

Special Requirements

You will be individually graded for your participation in the discussion that follows each of the other seminars presented by your classmates (marked out of 5, then aggregated with the 30 point mark for your own seminar presentation, to form 35% of your total course mark). The instructions for what is expected in your class participation will be described in the instructions for seminars, to be distributed via Canvas in due course. Clearly your attendance at each of the seminar presentations by your classmates will be required in order for you to be graded. If you know of any impediment to attending these seminars, please let the course co-ordinator know as soon as possible.  Similarly, absences due to ill health will need to be documented, since attendance and participation are part of the formal grading of the course.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 25 hours of lectures, 4 hours of tutorials, 20 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 70 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled activities including tutorials/workshops/student presentations to receive credit for components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including seminars will not necessarily be available as recordings.
The course will not include live online events including [group discussions/tutorials].
Attendance on campus is required for the exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.

Learning Resources


The Entrepreneur's Guide to a Biotech Startup (4th edition), Peter Kolchinksy 
- Pdf downloads also available free from Evelexa ( – you often have to register first and the site emails you a password – If the registration system is down you can download without registering. This resource provides important background to understanding investment in biotechnology. 


Biotechnology: Academic Cell Update Edition, 2012; Clarke DP & Pazdernik NJ; Elsevier, ISBN: 978-0-12-385063-8 
o This is available from online booksellers in hard copy, and from e-book sellers as an e-book readable on any device.  (Please note that Kindle books available from Amazon can now be read on most devices with Kindle apps for those devices, and if you choose Amazon as a supplier you have an option to rent the text rather than buy it for a discounted rate.) 

Internet resources:

NZBio ( is the NZ biotech industry organisation, and this website is a gateway to a directory of NZ biotech companies, plus universities and institutes involved in biotechnology.  It also carries news items on progress in the sector (under the “News and Opinion” tab).  The site holds some comprehensive sector reports (click on the “Resources” tab to find these). 
The New Zealand Trade and Enterprise website also carries specific information on the biotechnology sector (, especially as it relates to industry development initiatives.  Look under “Explore” and “Export Markets” for information on international markets. 

The Science Learning Hub ( is a government-funded site aimed at high-school level education about biotechnology. It hosts some simple but very clear explanations of common technologies, and brief descriptions of the companies involved in biotechnology in NZ, and related organisations, amongst other useful resources. 

Until 2012, Statistics New Zealand published regular surveys of biotech industry activity in NZ, plus deeper reports based on available data. The surveys and reports are all freely downloadable from this government department at: 

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Other Information

Inclusive learning  
Students are urged to discuss privately any impairment-related requirements face-to-face and/or in written form with the course co-ordinator. 

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University Website for information about how to proceed.

Specifically relating to COVID-19, the following guidelines apply for the respective alter levels:

Level 1: Delivered normally as specified in delivery mode 
Level 2: You will not be required to attend in person. All teaching and assessment will have a remote option. The following activities will also have an on campus / in person option: Lectures, student presentations.
Level 3 / 4: All teaching activities and assessments are delivered remotely

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 05/01/2021 05:45 p.m.