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Booster Innovation Fund New Zealand
BoosterApril 29, 20246 min read

BIF manager inducted into biotech hall of fame

Booster's Melissa Yiannoutsos has been celebrated for her role at the forefront of biotech in New Zealand, a testament to her two decades of dedication in the sector. 

Recognised by BIOTechNZ and inducted into its Hall of Fame, it is clear Melissa's journey has impacted many aspects of the biotech industry, starting with creating an environment where companies could grow and attract the funding they needed. 

Melissa Yiannoutsos Booster Innovation Fund manager Now at the helm of the Booster Innovation Fund, Melissa was recognised at the 2024 Life Sciences Summit, a reflection of her significant contributions to the biotech landscape in New Zealand.


Melissa’s story showcases her pursuit of innovation and support for the New Zealand community.

Her career is marked by pivotal roles in fostering and supporting the biotech and deep tech sectors and many firms and founders across the country. Her knack for bridging the gap between investors and innovators has supported the growth of the biotech ecosystem in New Zealand.


She sat down to talk about her journey and what she sees as the major strengths of New Zealand’s biotech sector and more.

From the early days at Industrial Research, where she was tasked by her boss to pioneer an angel investment network in New Zealand, Melissa’s efforts were aimed at introducing a new investment category to New Zealand and simplifying the complex process of raising capital for groundbreaking ideas.

‘After I graduated from university,’ said Melissa, ‘I took a role at Industrial Research as a market analyst. I didn't find that all that challenging at times, so I said to my boss at the time, Geoff Todd “Hey, I need something more” and he said, “I've just come back from the US and they have communities of high net worth individual ‘angels’ clubbing together to invest in young ideas and companies. We don't have that here. Go and set that up.”

‘That was the first foray for New Zealand to have a visible platform where people with great ideas could raise money locally.’

It was not a straightforward journey – especially as the angel investing model was new for many in New Zealand. 

‘We ran events up and down the country. I was responsible for finding innovators and helping them tell their story to secure funding from investors interested in the space – we raised about $14m for these companies in the first couple of years’

To make it a success, though, more had to be done.

‘We had to get an exemption notice from the Securities Act to ensure the right protections were in place for investors and for the innovators presenting their high-risk investments. That was a big coup and a first. This raised the profile of angel investment with the Minister for Economic Development who conducted a review to look at ways to accelerate and scale an angel investment market.’

‘It was an exciting time as this sparked a whole lot of angel clubs up and down the country and the establishment of a government-backed seed co-investment fund to invest alongside the clubs.’


Her journey didn’t stop at facilitating investments.

Still with Industrial Research, Melissa's ambition led her to establish what she thinks was New Zealand’s first deep technology incubator in 2004, providing a way for Industrial Research to form ventures around its sciences and biotechnologies that did not have a natural home with a New Zealand industry partner. One of the companies born out of that programme was HTS-110 – a company supplying magnetic solutions for use in many different markets.  

‘Through that journey, I felt like a bit of an imposter… I hadn’t earned my stripes so to speak, I hadn’t built a company or invested my own money into these companies, so I leapt into that.’

Her hands-on involvement came from working in start-ups, including as a business co-founder of Avalia Immunotherapies where she helped secure their first investment round. The journey was a rollercoaster as the team navigated international partnerships, though one which came to an end for Avalia in 2023.

‘We got pre-clinical studies up and running with many scientific leaders around the world to show how Avalia’s vaccines could provide real benefit to patient outcomes and save lives.

They say you learn way, way more from failures and I can’t say enough how true that is! Resilience, perseverance and working in high performance, high trust teams is key – and in biotech it goes without saying – that the science needs to be exceptional.’  

During the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns, with colleagues from Avalia, Melissa joined the effort to review New Zealand’s vaccine manufacturing capability to identify strategies to future proof the country’s ability to manufacture vaccines and pandemic preparedness.


The move to the Booster Innovation Fund (BIF) came in early 2021.

Geoff Todd, who employed her in her first post graduate role, was working with the Booster team to set up what would become BIF. He was looking to step back from active involvement and knew that Melissa, with her experience, would be the right person to head the new fund.

‘It really resonated with me. I’m so passionate about helping Kiwis grow brilliant companies and finding ways for all Kiwis to be a part of that effort and to share in the value creation.

It’s such a great opportunity to join the pioneering Booster team to grow scale and impact that I couldn’t resist.’

BIF has benefited from Melissa's leadership and now holds interests in over 35 startups, with a large number of them working in biotech and healthcare. BIF’s holdings were valued at approximately $19.3m as of the end of March 2023, and BIF has average annualised growth of 19.5% before tax since its founding in 2021. This growth reflects Melissa’s understanding of what it takes to nurture and scale deep tech ventures.

But it also reflects the strength of New Zealand’s biotech scene, epitomised in its close-knit and cooperative community.

‘I think there's a lot of collaboration that's sparking great innovations within academic institutes and industry. There’s also an ability to access all players across the value chain and determine whether this can have a meaningful impact for the patient and individuals.’

BIF has also benefited from Melissa’s understanding of what makes a startup successful.

‘What's worked has been when you surround yourself with passionate people who are on a mission and there's a dynamic plan to create value from there.’

Congratulations to Melissa for this well-deserved honour. It is recognition for two decades of hard and dedicated work building, expanding and fostering the biotech and deep tech scene in New Zealand.

But for Melissa, her success can be boiled down to a few key points: ‘I’ve always had my head down, working with resilient teams, driving great ideas and science for big impact and for a set of aligned stakeholders and investors and that’s it really.’


Read more about the Booster Innovation Fund (BIF) and some of the exciting companies it has invested in to advance early stage innovation – and see how you can support these trailblazing companies breaking the mould right here in Aotearoa.

Booster Investment Management Limited is the issuer of the Booster Innovation Scheme, Booster Innovation Fund. Product Disclosure Statements are available at



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