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Christchurch researchers honoured in Royal Society awards

Thursday 17 November 2011 4:54pm

University of Otago, Christchurch, researcher Professor Christine Winterbourn has won New Zealand’s top science and technology award – the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Rutherford Medal.

Professor Winterbourn is the first woman to receive the award in its 20 year history.

It recognises her status as a world authority in free radicals and her ground breaking research into characterising biochemical reactions of free radicals that we now know occur in diseases such as coronary heart disease, arthritis and strokes.

Presentation of the medal also recognised Professor Winterbourn’s long-time commitment to supporting biomedical research in New Zealand.

University of Otago, Christchurch, researcher Dr Chris Pemberton also received a top honour at the awards ceremony. He was given the Health Research Council (HRC) of New Zealand’s Liley Medal for his contribution to health and science in the field of cardiovascular medicine.

Dr Pemberton and his colleagues have uncovered evidence of a new biomarker or hormone in the blood which could speed diagnosis of certain types of heart attacks.

Once developed, the test could be used in emergency departments around the world to quickly and accurately diagnosis conditions which before could possibly take days to determine.

The Christchurch researchers were given their awards at the Royal Society’s annual Research Honours award event in Wellington on Wednesday 16 November.

Dean of the University of Otago, Christchurch, Professor Peter Joyce says these two research awards reflect on the international standing of our researchers, and are especially welcome this year given the disruptions to research by the Canterbury earthquakes.

Professor Winterbourn says receiving the award was a great honour.

“It is also a tribute to my colleagues and students at the University of Otago, Christchurch, who have been vital for the success of my research over the years.’’

“It has been an enjoyable experience to work in the collegial environment of the Medical School of the University of Otago, Christchurch, where I have been for almost all of my research career.’’

Dr Pemberton considers the award of the HRC Liley Medal to be a reflection of the dedication of his mentors and colleagues in the Cardioendocrine Research Group at the University of Otago, Christchurch.

“The receipt of this award would not have been possible without their long term commitment to creating a vibrant research environment of excellence, which allows new ideas to develop. It’s extremely exciting and rewarding to be a part of that.”

For interviews contact

Professor Christine Winterbourn
Telephone: 021 026 41266

Dr Chris Pemberton
Telephone: 027 343 4495 or 364-0887

Kim Thomas
Senior Communications Advisor
027 222 6016