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New Zealand start-up InsituGen to supply sport industry with new drug testing technology

New Zealand start-up InsituGen to supply sport industry with new drug testing technology
August 5, 2020

New Zealand start-up InsituGen, will be targeting drug cheats in the major sporting codes as early as 2022, with their innovative anabolic drug testing kits developed at the University of Otago, New Zealand. 

InsituGen is built on a collaboration comprising deep-tech investor Pacific Channel, and anabolic drug-detection technology created by Professor Alison Heather of the University of Otago. The company will equip established drug screening operators with kits which detect designer anabolics that current technology is not able to identify.

Professor Heather advises “at the moment existing tests only catch cheats who use recognised substances however cheats are able to go un-detected if they use substances that have been chemically altered – the fingerprint of the drug isn’t recognised. Our test quickly identifies any form of anabolic steroid in an athlete’s system, even if it is an unknown compound. No other test can do this.”

InsituGen’s unique testing method has been a focus for Professor Heather at the University of Otago’s Department of Physiology over the last six years. Her concept was advanced by Otago Innovation Limited - a University of Otago company which develops and commercialises intellectual property developed out of the University.

Otago Innovation Chief Executive, David Christensen adds “working alongside Pacific Channel and Professor Heather, we’ve brought her cutting-edge scientific concept to the point where it is ‘commercialisation ready’, and now attracting a number of other investors. It is a very exciting time, and we look forward to the positive influence InsituGen will have in the world of sport.”

InsituGen Chief Executive, Dr Ojas Mahapatra notes “our investors include well-established companies such as New Zealand’s early-stage, deep-tech investment company Pacific Channel, leading financial services company Booster and New Zealand Growth Capital Partners. Together they have invested the $1.6million of start-up funding required to begin commercialising this technology.

“InsituGen’s immediate pathway lies in the horse racing industry, with commercial testing in New Zealand and Australia before supplying official operators come the 2021 autumn and spring carnivals. The technology is then planned to be diversified to a human kit, with potential for InsituGen to be supplying major sporting codes as early as 2022.”

Professor Heather adds “In addition to identifying anabolic drugs used to create an illegal advantage, InsituGen’s kits can provide sporting organisations peace of mind when choosing nutritional supplements. Not only does the technology provide athletes, coaches, trainers and administrators with confidence that what they’re taking is legal and won’t lead to a surprising and potentially career-ending positive result for an anabolic, it provides assurance that they’re not inadvertently taking something that is harmful and unsafe to their body.”

Looking beyond sports, Professor Heather is examining the potential for the technology to be used in a medical application to monitor hormone levels. This could potentially assist the process of regulating dosage of hormone inhibitors used in certain hormone sensitive cancers, including breast cancer.

Image top: Professor Alison Heather in her lab and image above: InsituGen Chief Executive Dr Ojas Mahapatra with Prof Heather

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23rd July 2019 - Mack Horton and Swimming Australia face official rebuke over ‘drug cheat’ protest

9th December 2017 - Drug Free Sport New Zealand starts proceedings against multiple athletes

25th August 2017 - Cycling champion Jack Bobridge charged with drug dealing

30th July 2017 - New Zealand to drug test high school rugby teams

6th July 2017 - Drug Free Sport New Zealand announces new Chief Executive

30th May 2017 - Sport and Recreation Awards recognise Drug Free Sport’s Graeme Steel with Lifetime Achievement Award

6th May 2017 - NRL rocked by latest drug scandals

22nd March 2017 - Government commits funding to help sporting groups tackle illegal drugs

14th December 2016 - New Zealand rugby’s new player deal to see testing for recreational drug use

19th September 2016 - Queensland Crime Commission says gyms are becoming key outlets for supply of illicit drugs

19th August 2016 - Sydney personal trainer sentenced to minimum five year jail term for drug dealing

12th August 2016 - Swimming Australia website under ‘cyber attack’ after Mack Horton’s ‘drug cheat’ remarks

15th April 2016 - Drug Free Sport NZ wins international awards for new learning programme

14th March 2016 - Drug Free Sport launches anti-doping e-learning programme

8th March 2016 - Maria Sharapova gets provisional tennis ban after failed Australian Open drugs test

15th June 2014 - Australian Drug Foundation welcomes Federal funding for Good Sports program

16th May 2013 - Positive drug tests on the rise among AFL players

27th October 2012 - Conference to explore drugs and alcohol in sport ‘the silent epedemic’

6th November 2011 - Big breakthough in sport drug testing

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