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  • Position: Former Senior Scientist, Genesis Research and Development.
    Field: Genetics.

    Jim was the founder of New Zealand's first biotech company, Genesis Research and Development, and the cancer research institute Caldera, but also enjoyed working in the lab.


    In the last decade the tools and techniques for science have changed dramatically but the problems have not. The incidence of autoimmune diseases, diabetes, asthma, and prostate and breast cancer is growing. Jim wanted to use the new techniques to look at these old problems.

    Biotechnology will really come into its own in the development of sustainable technologies

    He believed the two most important new techniques are flow cytometry – which uses dyes and tags to identify molecules and processes inside a cell, and interference RNA (RNAi) – which allows us to block the expression of certain parts of the genetic code.

    The diseases that really interest him are prostate and breast cancer because of their prevalence and the lack of knowledge as to their causes.

    Career Pathway

    Jim Watson received his PhD from the University of Auckland in 1967 and his area of expertise is immunology. He then worked as a postdoctoral fellow worked at Syntex Corporation in Palo Alto, California (1967–69) and the Salk Institute (1969–75).

    Jim has held professorships at the University of California – Irvine (1976–81), and the University of Auckland (1981–93), serving as head of the Department of Molecular Medicine (1983–93). He was a director of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (1999–2002), and president of the Australasian Society of Immunology (2001). In 2006 he received a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for services to scientific and medical research.

    Jim was president of The Royal Society of New Zealand, a member of the government’s Growth and Innovation Advisory Board and a trustee of the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research.

    Jim passed away in 2017, read his obituary written by his daughter-in-law.

    This article is based on information current in 2007 and updated in 2017.

    Useful link

    Read this paper by Dr Watson, Science is the Business Frontier, that was published posthumously on the Royal Society Te Apārangi website.

      Published 15 November 2007, Updated 30 April 2017 Referencing Hub articles
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