Monday, 14 December 2015
Kia ora koutou kātoa
Welcome to the final edition of Pulse for 2015.
We sadly acknowledge the passing of David Stewart who was a prominent leader in both the Medical School and the Division, and whose contributions are still influential today.
The end of the year is also a time to celebrate the successes of many in the Division.
Congratulations to those staff who have been promoted to the level of professor or associate professor. These appointments are recognition of stellar performance.
Congratulations to those who have received HRC Career Development Awards, and also to the 18 Pacific students who have been awarded HRC Pacific summer studentships.
Significant recent events include the festschrift for Christine Winterbourn to celebrate the outstanding contributions she has made and continues to make in the field of free radical research.
In early December we hosted the launch of the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge at Otākou marae, attended by Hon Steven Joyce.
I’d like to pass on my sincere thanks to all staff for their support of their students over the exam period, to those who assist with the running of the graduation ceremonies, and to those who joined with our graduands’ whānau to celebrate their graduations.
I thank you all for your hard work that has resulted in a successful year, and wish you all a relaxing summer break that is spent enjoying time with family and friends.
I look forward to working with you in 2016.
Ngā mihi o te Kirihimete me te Tau Hou.
Professor Peter Crampton
Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Division of Health Sciences, email@example.com
It is with sadness we record the recent passing of a person who was highly influential in the life of both the Medical School and the Division of Health Sciences, Professor David Stewart. He was an outstanding clinical teacher and leader, and was regarded as very much a leading light amongst the clinical teachers of the time. We express our sorrow and sympathy for the passing of David, and acknowledge the tremendous contribution he made, the legacies of which can still be seen today.
Following is a summary of some of David’s contributions during his long career with the University.
- Appointed Mary Glendining Professor of Medicine: 1974-1982
- Dean of the Otago Medical School (now two separate schools, the Dunedin School of Medicine and the Otago School of Medical Sciences): 1986-1990
- Dean of the Faculty of Medicine (now known as the Otago Medical School): 1991-1995
- Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Division of Health Sciences: 1991-1998
- Appointed member of the Board of Healthcare Otago: 1998
The legacy of his skill, energy and commitment is appreciated and remembered by staff of the Otago Medical School and the Division of Health Sciences.
Congratulations to those staff who have been awarded professorial appointments in the latest promotion round.
Promotion to Professor
|Associate Professor Colin Brown||Physiology (OSMS)|
|Associate Professor Peter Dearden||Biochemistry (OSMS)|
|Associate Professor Dee Mangin||General Practice (UOC)|
|Associate Professor Sally McCormick||Biochemistry (OSMS)|
|Associate Professor Di Sarfati||Public Health (UOW)|
|Associate Professr Daryl Tong||Oral Diagnostic & Surgical Sciences (Dentistry)|
Promotion to Research Professor
|Associate Professor Nick Wilson||Public Health (UOW)|
|Associate Professor Tony Merriman||Biochemistry (OSMS)|
Promotion to Associate Professor
|Dr Vincent Bennani||Oral Rehabilitation (Dentistry)|
|Dr Craig Marshall||Biochemistry (OSMS)|
|Dr June Tordoff||Pharmacy|
|Dr Lynley Anderson||Bioethics Centre|
|Dr Lyndie Foster Page||Oral Sciences (Dentistry)|
|Dr Beulah Leitch||Anatomy (OSMS)|
|Dr Geoffrey Tompkins||Oral Sciences (Dentistry)|
|Mr Shieak Tzeng||Surgery & Anaesthesia (UOW)|
Promotion to Research Associate Professor
|Dr Tim Woodfield||Orthopaedic Surgery & Musculoskeletal Medicine (UOC)|
HRC Career Development Awards
Congratulations to Dr Tania Slatter (Pathology, DSM) who has been awarded a prestigious Sir Charles Hercus fellowship in the latest round of the HRC's Career Development Awards, for her research on improving outcomes for patients with brain tumours. Predicting brain tumour prognosis from cell immortality pathways
Congratulations also to the 18 Pacific students who were awarded HRC Pacific summer studentships.
Three health professionals received an HRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship to undertake postgraduate study at the University of Otago and a Dunedin GP received a Foxley Fellowship to carry out a research sabbatical.
HRC Career Development Awards announced (Otago press release)
Healthier Lives National Science Challenge launch
The Healthier Lives National Sciences Challenge was launched by the Hon Steven Joyce at Otākou marae on Friday 4 December. The launch was attended by representatives of all the Challenge partners, along with members of key stakeholder groups. This Challenge is based on innovative research aimed at significantly reducing the death and disease burden of some of New Zealand’s leading health problems. The Challenge will tackle cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity with the goal of reducing their overall burden by 25% by 2025.
New Healthier Lives Challenge takes aim at NZ’s major killers (Otago press release)
Magnitude of health challenge highlighted (ODT)
University of Otago Research Themes
From 2016, the Division will host or co-host seven of the thirteen new University Research Themes. Many of these have membership that spans the Divisions of the University. Funding has also been awarded to two other groups who have not achieved Theme status but will align with existing Centres. We wish all our Theme participants the best in their research endeavours. A list of themes with directors from the Division is below.
|Ag @ Otago||Professor Frank Griffin (Microbiology and Immunology, OSMS)|
|ASPIRE2025 Research for a Tobacco-free Aotearoa||Professors Richard Edwards (Public Health, UOW) and Janet Hoek (Marketing)|
|Polar Environments Research Theme||Dr Craig Marshall (Biochemistry, OSMS)|
|Research Theme of Human Evolutionary Genomics||Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith (Anatomy, OSMS)|
|Poutama Ara Rau||Professor Jacinta Ruru (Law), Associate Professor Suzanne Pitama (MIHI, UOC), Dr Karyn Paringātai (Te Tumu)|
|Collaboration of Ageing Research Excellence (CARE)||Associate Professor Debra Waters (Physiotherapy)|
|Asia-Pacific Biocultural Health: Past and Present||Dr Sian Halcrow (Anatomy, OSMS)|
New collaborative research supported
The Division of Health Sciences Research Committee has recently instigated some initiatives to stimulate collaboration across the Schools of the Division. One of these has been to provide funding for a postdoctoral fellow to work on a new collaborative project and this has recently been awarded.
This exciting new project brings together researchers from the Departments of Anatomy in Dunedin with the Departments of Pathology and Psychological Medicine in University of Otago, Christchurch. The project will utilise longitudinal data from the Christchurch Health and Development Study (CHDS) and apply the latest genomic technologies to study whether prolonged or heavy cannabis usage has any modifying effects on the genome of the users.
The Fellowship has been awarded to Dr Amy Osborne and the collaboration involves Professor Martin Kennedy (Pathology, UOC) and Professor Neil Gemmell and Dr Tim Hore (Anatomy, OSMS), Associate Professors John Horwood and Joe Boden (Psychological Medicine, UOC ) and Dr John Pearson (Dean’s Department UOC).
Translational Research Grant
Congratulations to Associate Professor Richard Macknight (Biochemistry, OSMS) and George Poulter on being this year's winners of the Translational Research Grant. Congratulations also to runner-up Dr Andrew Cridge (Biochemistry, OSMS).
Health Sciences Career Development Postdoctoral Fellowships
Two awards have been made in the recent round for these Fellowships. One award goes to Dr Claire Smith, who will take up a fellowship in Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, DSM for her work on new ways of monitoring sleep in children and babies. Dr Luis Gonano will join the laboratory of Dr Pete Jones in Physiology, OSMS, where he will examine the influence of protein kinase G on cardiac ryanodine receptors
There was an outstanding field of candidates and we would like to thank everyone for the hard work that has gone into the applications.
A years' work all rolled into 3 months.
Lab-in-a-Box has just finished its inaugural tour of the South Island - a tour that started on the 13th October and ended on the 10th December.
On this tour Lab-in-a-Box travelled to, or hosted, Kaikorai Primary and Kings High School in Dunedin, Catlins Area School in Owaka, Aparima College and Riverton Primary in Riverton, Roxburgh Area School in Roxburgh, Mt Aspiring College and Holy Family Catholic Primary in Wanaka, Whataroa School in Whataroa, Grey District High and John Paul High in Greymouth, the Sterling A&P Show in Kirwee and Gleniti School in Timaru. It ended its tour back in Dunedin hosting the Enviro-Schools Exhibition at the Botanical Gardens and being part of the Planetarium Opening at the Otago Museum.
During this tour the Box has worked in partnership with the Physics Department, Marine Science, The Otago Museum, the Chemistry Department, Genetics Otago, LandCare, The Science Fair, Orokonui Eco-Sanctuary and the Pharmacology and Toxicology Department.
Lab-in-a-Box has proven to be a highly popular and useful addition to rural schools science education, and of great benefit to rural communities’ understanding of science and technology.
Due to its popularity it already has bookings for 2016 – you will be able to see the Box at the Marine Science Centre’s Sea Week and with The Catalyst Trust at the Science Festival.
A number of schools are interested in Lab-in-a-Box coming to visit. We are planning another tour to visit Hawea School, Cromwell School, Te Anau School, Omakau School in Alexandra and Totara School in Oamaru. We also want to include time in Westport and Queenstown.
This very successful was very much a collaborative effort and we would like to take this opportunity to thank our colleagues in Microbiology and Immunology, Genetics, Anatomy, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Neuroscience, Biochemistry and Physiology and Biomedical Science. They offered their expertise and skill, and took their knowledge into rural schools and communities where real and visible differences were made in science education and engagement.
We hope that the funding for Lab-in-a-Box carries on for 2016 so we can continue to visit rural schools and communities, taking science and science communication to as many people as possible. We are very proud of our Big Blue Box and we want everyone to see it, play in it and learn with it.
Congratulations to the following staff on their recent success at the OSMS end of year awards function held on December 16 in the Hunter Centre.
- Lisa Matisoo-Smith - OSMS Distinguished Researcher of the Year 2015
- Jo-Ann Stanton - OSMS Commercial Research Award 2015
- Jeff Erickson - OSMS Emerging Researcher Award 2015
- Michelle Wilson - OSMS Research Support Staff Award 2015
- Torsten Kleffmann - OSMS Distinguished Research Support Staff Award 2015
- Robbie McPhee - OSMS Sustained Research Support Staff Award 2015
- Rebecca Campbell - OSMS Best Paper Award 2015
- Louise Parr-Brownlie - OSMS Kaupapa Māori Research Award 2015
- Hallie Buckley - OSMS Pasifika Research Award 2015
- Phil Sheard - Distinguished Academic Teacher 2015
- Bradley Hurren - Distinguished Teaching Fellow/PPF Science 2015
- Latika Samalia - Distinguished Teaching Fellow/PPF Professional Programmes 2015
Department of Anatomy
- Congratulations to Associate Professor Hallie Buckley, Associate Professor Christine Jasoni and Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith who have been successful in receiving funding from the prestigious Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund. Together, these projects will bring in over $2.2M to the Department of Anatomy.
The project titles are:
"The origins of social inequality in Southeast Asia: an exploration of health and wealth disparity at the emergence of state level society” (Associate Professor Hallie Buckley)
“Exposed: does a leaky blood-brain barrier elevate the risk for obesity in the offspring of obese mothers?” (Associate Professor Christine Jasoni)
"A genomic study of the people of Wairau Bar: health, history and origins of the first New Zealanders” (Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith)
- Congratulations to five members of staff who have been successful in receiving University of Otago Research Grant funding. This success is valued recognition from the University of Otago for the important research being undertaken in this Department, and will help support the researchers' key research projects.
The successful researchers and their project titles are:
Associate Professor Stephen Bunn "Are tanycytes a new target for interleukin-6?”
Associate Professor George Dias "Investigating non-derivatized cellulose as a new biomedical material in tissue engineering applications.”
Professor Neil Gemmell and Dr Helen Taylor "How do the genomic signatures of inbreeding affect male fertility?”
Dr Tim Hore (early career) "Germline memory: understanding epigenetic reprogramming in vertebrates."
Dr Megan Wilson "Stop, Pause, Go: RNA Polymerase II stalling may play a key role in mouse neurogenesis."
- PhD students Natalie Matheson and Laura Boddington have received high praise for their presentations at recent conferences in the United States. Natalie was selected as one of five submitted abstracts to give an oral presentation at the prestigious American Society of Neurorehabilitation meeting in Chicago, and Laura was awarded the Society's Presidential Award for overall best basic science poster at the meeting. Team leader Assoc Prof John Reynolds said they both gave fantastic presentations, and this was a tremendous feat at such a high level international conference.
Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Tannock lab receives $1M of funding from High-Value Nutrition National Science Challenge
Professor Gerald Tannock and his interdisciplinary research team have been awarded $1M of funding to develop a slow-release energy weaning food for babies, to stop them from waking up hungry. The team will look to develop a new weaning food for evening meals, containing novel dietary fibres that better sustain energy release through the night. With optimal mixtures of dietary fibres, enough sustained energy would be harvested by bowel bacteria to satisfy the infant body's needs until morning.
The research project is one of seven one-million-dollar projects to be launched under the Government's latest "National Science Challenges".
Improving baby's sleep during weaning through novel dietary fibres (Otago press release)
The Food for Health project (3 News)
Department welcomes new lecturer Dr Xochitl Morgan
Dr Xochitl Morgan has joined the Department of Microbiology and Immunology as a Lecturer, bringing expertise in sequencing and computational biology and an impressive publication profile. She is particularly interested in areas of environmental and medical microbiology, with one of her major research projects looking at host-microbe interactions in inflammatory bowel disease.
Xochitl has relocated from Boston, Massachusetts, where she spent four years as a Research Scientist in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Two Microbiology and Immunology researchers awarded Marsden funding
Dr Raymond Staals, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Fineran Lab, has been awarded a Fast-Start Grant of $300,000 in the 2015 Marsden Funding round. Raymond's project is entitled Restriction of gene transfer in pathogenic bacteria by a novel CRISPR-Cas system.
Professor Greg Cook is co-principal investigator of a project which will investigate anti-microbial resistance mechanisms inStaphylococcus aureus. The project, Game of clones: unravelling biocide resistance mechanisms in Staphylococcus aureus has been awarded a grant of $490,000 over 2 years and will be led by Dr Deborah Williamson of the Department of Pathology & Molecular Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington.
Flu study aims to improve vaccination programme
Dr Matloob Husain conducted a survey of University of Otago staff in October to learn more about the reasons why staff did or didn't take up the offer of a free influenza vaccine last winter. The results of the study are also intended to be used in a research publication.
More than 2260 staff members rolled up their sleeves for the on-campus vaccination this year, and every year that number climbs. Dr Husain says while the programme is going well, there is always room to improve it.
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology
Dr John Ashton has commenced a series of interviews with Radio New Zealand, speaking as our expert on various drugs, explaining how they work and how they affect the body and mind. Listen on Radio New Zealand.
He was also invited to be ambassador for the new charity Lung Foundation New Zealand which was launched on Wednesday 11 November 2015. John spoke at the launch and is raising awareness about the disease and the stigma that is attached to lung cancer, especially amongst non-smokers. John has been able to deliver first-hand experience about the success he has received from the ALK inhibitor drug called Crizotinib.
Calls to raise lung cancer awarenss. (3News)
Associate Professor Ivan Sammut coordinated an outreach visit for Year 7 pupils from Balmacewen Intermediate. Pupils were given a brief introduction to the function of the human heart and vascular system, learning about blood pressure monitoring and lung function testing in association with a medium intensity exercise routine. The visit was received with great enthusiasm and energy.
Lab-in-a-box at Kirwee
Lab in a Box has been very well received. Pharmacology was featured on TV1 news with their activities that were held at Kaikorai Primary School. We also provided two days of activities in Timaru which were eagerly received by some 240 pupils covering Years 3-8.
Professor Rhonda J Rosengren facilitated the International Toxicology Symposium Toxicology for the Modern Researcher at the Hutton Theatre on 19 & 20 November 2015. Three international leading toxicologists, Professors Bradfield (University of Wisconsin), Ramos (University of Arizona) and Safe (Texas A&M) conducted panel discussions and delivered keynote talks. Other speakers included representation from the Otago School of Medical Sciences, the greater Health Sciences Division, and the Sciences and Humanities divisions. The symposium was well attended with some 90 registrations. To date we have received interest from over four new collaborators and five new supervisors expressing interest in working with the MSc Toxicology programme.
Congratulations to the following staff on their recent funding successes;
- Dr Sarah Baird: the Otago Medical Research Foundation for her research project Mesenchymal stem cell-based therapy for aggressive paediatric brain tumours.
- Dr Khaled Greish: the University of Otago Research Committee for his research project Evaluation of tyrosine kinase inhibitor targeted nanomicelles in management of glioblastoma multiforme.
- Dr Belinda Cridge: AGMARDT for her research project In vitro toxicity of glucosinolates, and also from the Committee for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching 2016 for teaching development on lectures focusing on establishing a basic understanding on what a receptor is and how drugs interact with receptors to mediate a therapeutic effect.
- Dr John Ashton: the Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust for his project Targeting drug resistance mutations with genetic biomarkers in cancer.
- Dr Yiwen Zheng received funding from the Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust for equipment to further her tinnitus research.
Department of Physiology
- Congratulations to the following staff who were awarded project grants in the latest RSNZ Marsden Funding round (AIs from Physiology also listed in brackets):
Dr Martin Fronius (Dr Rajesh Katare) – awarded $755K over 3 years for the project “Shear force dependent regulation of epithelial Na+ channel (ENaC) and its relevance for blood pressure regulation"
Dr Pete Jones (Dr Jeff Erickson) – awarded $805K over 3 years for “Generating novel biosensors to monitor oxidative stress in the heart”.
- Congratulations to Associate Professor Ruth Empson (with co-PIs) who has been awarded a 2-year Brain Research NZ grant ($155,965) for the project “Pericyte therapeutics to repair the stroke-lesioned brain”.
- John Eccles Prestigious Lecturer 2015: We had the pleasure of hosting Professor Jeff Lichtman from Harvard University in October. Prof Lichtman is a world expert in the field of brain “connectomics” which aims to study how brain cells are connected with one another. In order to study connections in the brain, Prof Lichtman has developed some sophisticated techniques to visualize brain cells and map them in precise detail. One of these techniques is called “Brainbow”, which involves targeting bright glowing molecules into brain cells such that different brain cells glow different colours of the rainbow. This allows the structure of brain cells to be seen and for their connections to be mapped. Prof Lichtman gave a public lecture and the Sir John Eccles Prestigious Lecture during his visit, as well as meeting with a number of staff and students.
- Doping & the Culture of Sport Symposium: Professor Alison Heather organised a successful symposium which was held on 2nd December. It attracted local media coverage with Prof Heather appearing on Dunedin TV. The coverage also includes an interview from Professor David Handelsman, the Director of the ANZAC Research Institute and Professor of Reproductive Endocrinology & Andrology at the University of Sydney. He is an internationally-recognised expert in androgen biology, male reproduction and androgen doping in sports and in 2015 was the most cited author world-wide on “androgens”.
Professors gather to tackle sport doping. (39 Dunedin television)
- The Department would also like to congratulate Zhe (Joe) Zhang whose PhD thesis has been placed on the Health Sciences Divisional List of Exceptional Doctoral Theses.
The vacating of the School's building is well underway with the Barningham Building now vacated and due for demolition. Demolition is set to commence 16th Dec 2015 and will be completed by 16th Jan 2016.
Last week simulation heads, computer hard drives and key boards were stacked like dominoes against the walls of the Dental School Simulations (Sim) Suite, with its Team Leader, Di Noble, adding boxes of equipment to the pile. The Simulation Suite, where dental students get taught key techniques using simulation equipment, will be moved to its temporary suite in the hospital Children's Pavilion second floor.
- Rebecca Lovelock; Thomson Reuters Price in Pharmacy, Pharmacy Defence Association Price, Pharmacy Prize in Pharmacy Practice 4th year, and Certificate in PHCY472
- Kit Yue (Jamie) Chan received the Christina White Prize awarded for best overall achievement in the BPharm degree
- Other prize winners: Isabelle Kuan (PHCY482), Nevan Zhong (PHCY473), Liang Kooi Kok (PHCY481 and PHCY483, NZHPA Pharmacy Prize in Clinical Pharmacy), Keryn Ramsay (PHCY471), Laurelle Lock (PHCY470), Nalini Ganaeswaren (PHCY480)
Congratulations also to the four PhD students who graduated:
- Dr Sharan Bobbala who also recently was awarded one of the 3 top presentations at the recent Drug Delivery Australia (DDA) conference in Brisbane.
- Dr Vittal Shivva (currently working in Washington DC)
- Dr Pei Ting (May) Mah (currently in Malaysia)
- Dr Paulina Guzman Fuhrer who has returned to her homeland of Chile
Congratulations to the following staff on their recent funding successes:
- Dr Allan Gamble a Marsden FastStart (Targeted, triggered and zero waste prodrug activation)
- Dr Andrea Vernall who is an associate investigator with Dr Natasha Grimsey (Cannabinoid Receptor 2 intracellular trafficking)
- Associate Professor Rhiannon Braund a “Health Services Delivery Grant” as co-PI with Craig MacKenzie (Enhancing identification and management of patients at increased risk of medication related problems to reduce complications and improve outcomes during transition of care)
- Dr Prasad Nishtala an AI on a grant from the New Zealand Ageing Well National Science Challenge with Dr Hamish Jamieson in Christchurch (Evaluation of the Drug Burden index to predict adverse outcomes in older people).
And also to Professor Pauline Norris on her recent research in collaboration with Associate Professor June Tordoff and Pharmacist Prescriber Leanne Te Karu into the cost of prescription medication.
Professor Christine Winterbourn's outstanding career was celebrated recently with a Festschrift at the University of Otago, Christchurch. Professor Winterbourn's research in the area of free radical science is internationally renowned and the number of international scientists who attended the Festschrift is a testatment to the importance of her research. During her career she received a number of prestigious awards, including being the first woman to receive the country's top science and technology prize, the Rutherford Medal in 2011.
Christchurch's leading woman of science celebrated (Otago press release)
Curious Minds funding
University of Otago, Wellington has been successful in securing funding from the 2015 Unlocking Curious Minds contestable fund to deliver a pilot project connecting children with science. UOW and other groups will run a weekly science club with students from Maoribank and Pinehaven Schools in Upper Hutt to explore how our bodies work, especially the heart and lungs, emphasising the relationship between exercise and health.
Bodies and bugs: Curious kids doing cool science (UO,W press release)
Cancer Society award
Professor Brett Delahunt recently received the Meritorious Service Award from the Cancer Society of New Zealand in recognition of the many voluntary hours he has dedicated to fostering their goals in cancer research.
The Cancer Society says he is regarded as one of the society’s most valued humanitarians, devoting on average more than 100 hours of voluntary service each year.
Public Health Summer School
The Public Health Summer School in Wellington will be offering over 30 short courses (1-3 days) across a huge diversity of skill-based and issue-based topics. With your 50% staff discount, courses cost just $150 per day if you register by Friday 18 December.
- Confirmed leading international thinkers you can hear include:
- Professor Johan Mackenbach – Erasmus MC, The Netherlands
- Professor Ichiro Kawachi – Harvard School of Public Health, USA
- Professor Jonathan Carapetis – University of Western Australia
- Dr Becky Freeman – University of Sydney
- David Denborough – Dulwich Centre, Adelaide
- Professors Robert Beaglehole and Ruth Bonita – Global leaders on NCD control
- Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman – Global leader on Healthy Housing and Urban Sustainability
The 1-day courses allow staff and students to gain critical skills through topics such as:
- An introduction to evaluating health initiatives
- Getting started in public health research (just $75 for UO staff up to 18 Dec)
- Introduction to basic biostatistics for health research
- Introduction to NVivo
- Literature review and basic meta-analysis skills
And on critical issues through courses such as:
- Global health: Prospects & challenges
- From Facebook to Instagram: How social media is influencing public health
- Ending childhood obesity
- Climate crisis: A public health response
- Hauora Māori tamariki/rangatahi/whānau ora
For more information and to register please visit the Public Health Summer School website.