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Pulse 65: November / December 2017

Tuesday 19 December 2017 9:43am

PVC's welcome

Peter Crampton, PVC Health Sciences
Professor Peter Crampton.

Kia ora koutou kātoa,

Welcome to the Christmas edition of Pulse. Now is the time for us all to look forward to a lull in the frantic pace that is typical during the working year. I hope everyone has a decent break lined up over the summer.

Congratulations to all of our new Professors and Associate Professors, and to all those who achieved advancement in this year’s promotion round. Congratulations as well to all those who have been successful in grant rounds and who have had success in other domains of University life.

In June this year I listed some of the priority activities for the Division of Health Sciences Office for 2017 and I would like now to provide an end-of-year update on some of our projects.

  • The new research support facility building project on Great King St is almost out of the ground with the foundations now nearing completion.
  • The new Dental School building project is making rapid vertical progress with the steel framing well advanced.
  • We continue to work closely with our colleagues in the Southern DHB, planning the University’s facilities that will be part of, or adjacent to, the new Dunedin Hospital.
  • We continue our work planning the shape and form of our facilities in Christchurch.
  • Rural health has been very much in the spotlight over the past year. Our plan for a National School of Rural Health is well developed. The process of developing the plan in collaboration with other partner organisations was an enjoyable and fruitful exercise. Whether or not this initiative proceeds will be to a large extent dependent on the Minister of Health and the Minister of Tertiary Education as they address the priorities of their large and diverse portfolios.
  • The Division has achieved excellent progress with the implementation of its Interprofessional Education plan.
  • In the wider Pacific region we are continuing to work closely with our colleagues in the new medical school at the National University of Samoa, the Ministry of Health in the Cook Islands, and the Fiji National University medical school.
  • The University is a partner in Te Kāika, the new iwi-led whānau ora centre in Caversham in the southern part of Dunedin. The medical clinic and health promotion services are now open and are busy seeing whānau and patients. The dental and physiotherapy services will be up and running by February. There will be a formal opening ceremony for Te Kāika early in the new year.
  • We continue to contribute to the implementation of the Support Services Review.
  • We continue working on the implementation of the HSFY review recommendations.
  • DRIGG is now fully operational and we continue implementation of the Division’s shared research infrastructure plan.
  • We expect to have the new academic Department of Hauora Māori up and running next year.
  • We are in the process of establishing consistent Pacific health curricula across the Division’s health professional programmes.

My warmest thanks to everyone—staff, students, community partners, and partners in other organisations—for contributing your time, energy, expertise and enthusiasm to such a productive and fruitful year.
Please take the holiday break as an opportunity to recharge your batteries and share time with family and friends.

I look forward to seeing everyone in the new year.

Ngā mihi mahana

Professor Peter Crampton
Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Division of Health Sciences

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General news

Professorial appointments

Greg Jones, Department of Surgical Sciences, Dunedin School of Medicine (DSM)
Sarah Derrett, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine (DSM)
Ruth Empson, Department of Physiology, School of Biomedical Sciences
Louise Signal, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington
Sarah Young, Department of Pathology, Dunedin School of Medicine (DSM)
Haxby Abbott, Department of Surgical Sciences, DSM
Patrick Manning, Department of Medicine, DSM
Suetonia Palmer, Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch.
George Dias, Department of Anatomy, School of Biomedical Sciences
John Horwood, Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch
Greg Anderson, Centre for Neuroendocrinology and Department of Anatomy

Associate Professors

John Ashton (Pharmacology and Toxicology)
Rebecca Campbell (Physiology)
Sian Halcrow (Anatomy)
Giles Newton-Howes (Psychological Medicine, UOW)
Bruce Russell (Microbiology and Immunology)
Daryl Schwenke (Physiology)
Philippa Seaton (Postgraduate Nursing, UOC)
Lee Thompson (Population Health, UOC)
Steve Tumilty (Physiotherapy)
Sigurd Wilbanks (Biochemistry)
Hamish Wilson (Otago Medical School)
Ming Zhang (Anatomy)
Tony Walls (Paediatrics, UOC)

Research Associate Professors

Anitra Carr (Pathology, UOC)
Dawn Coates (Oral and Diagnostic and Surgical Sciences)
Margaret Currie (Pathology, UOC)
Michelle McConnell (Microbiology and Immunology)
John Pearson (Dean’s Department, UOC)
Nevil Pierse (Public Health, UOW)

Clinical Associate Professor

Darren Hooks (Medicine, UOW)

Read more in the media release:
University of Otago announces academic promotions

Honorary Professorial appointment (August 2017)

Richard Jones (Medicine, UOC)

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Health Sciences Marsden recipients

We congratulate all our Health Sciences colleagues who contributed to the University's most successful Marsden round ever.

Read the full media release:
Marsden Fund backs Otago's research in best round ever

(We have listed principal and co-principal investigators only)

Dr Rosemary Brown, Anatomy (Fast Start)
The neurobiology of maternal behaviour - dissecting the role of prolactin in the medial preoptic area

Dr Aniruddha Chatterjee, Pathology (Fast Start)
Challenging the gene silencing dogma: DNA methylation as a mechanism for gene activation

Dr Robert Fagerlund, Microbiology & Immunology (Fast Start)
CRISPR-Cas immunity in cyanobacteria

Dr Charlotte King, Anatomy (Fast Start)
Planting the Soil and Panning for Gold: Exploring the dynamics of colonial life in Otago

Dr Adam Middleton, Biochemistry (Fast Start)
Capturing the growth of a destructive ubiquitin chain

Associate Professor Greg Anderson, Anatomy

Deconstructing the neuroendocrine requirements for puberty onset and ovulation

Dr Rebecca Campbell, Physiology
Androgen excess and the female brain

Dr Jeffrey Erickson, Physiology
NO Heart: A novel mechanism for modulating cardiac calcium by nitric oxide

Associate Professor Peter Fineran, Microbiology & Immunology

Uncovering regulatory networks controlling CRISPR-Cas adaptive immunity

Professor Mark Hampton, Pathology, Christchurch
Investigating the role of peroxiredoxin redox relays in cell signalling

Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, Public Health, Wellington
Eviction and its consequences: Representation, discourse and reality

Professor Brian Hyland, Physiology
Defining the brain circuits that interface hunger state with reward signalling to guide food consumption

Dr Karl Iremonger, Physiology
The sex of stress: Understanding sex differences in neural circuits controlling stress

Dr Michael Knapp, Anatomy
TB or not TB - examining the origin and evolution of tuberculosis in the pre-European Pacific

Associate Professor Richard Macknight, Biochemistry
Lost in translation: Discovering how plant genes are regulated

Professor Sally McCormick, Biochemistry
New players in protein recycling

Dr Bruce Russell, Microbiology & Immunology
Unraveling the molecular basis for vivax malaria's unhealthy attraction to human reticulocytes

Dr Megan Wilson, Anatomy
Understanding the cellular and molecular drivers governing a unique whole body regeneration phenomenon in a chordate model

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Associate Dean (Research) appointment

Prof Richard CannonProfessor Richard Cannon has been selected as the new Associate Dean Research for the Division. Richard has been the Director of the Sir John Walsh Research Institute and the Associate Dean Research for the Faculty of Dentistry for the past 3 years. Trained as a Microbiologist, Richard has an extensive understanding of the research system in New Zealand, having himself sustained a large research group for over twenty years. He and his group have successfully attracted funding from HRC, MBIE, Marsden fund, NIH and commercial partnerships both nationally and overseas. As Richard has been a member of the Division of Health Sciences Research Committee for a number of years, he is very well placed to continue to lead divisional initiatives.

We would also like to express our sincere appreciation of the contribution Professor Peter Dearden has made to the Associate Dean (Research) role in his term. We congratulate him on his outstanding research success and wish him well in his new directorship of Genomics Aotearoa.

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Translational Research Grant winner

Dr Ailsa McGregorCongratulations to Dr Ailsa McGregor (School of Pharmacy), who won the prize from a number of quality applications from across the Division including: Biomedical Sciences, Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Physiotherapy. The judging panel (and the observing investors), were very impressed by the high quality of the translational research ideas.

Ailsa will receive the $50,000 proof-of-concept grant and work closely with Otago Innovation Limited (OIL) over the coming 12 months to explore her novel medicine for pain treatment. OIL will also maintain supportive contact with other applicants.

The final judging panel comprised representatives from OIL, Professor Rhonda Rosengren (Head of Pharmacology & Toxicocology), Dr Kjesten Wiig (MBIE), and Dr Julia Chambers (Principal ChambersPage Limited/ ROS Investment Committee), and Professor Ian Tucker (Associate Dean Commercialisation).

The aim of the competition is to increase translational research being undertaken in the Division. All applicants enjoyed the experience and learnt though the process and we hope they will encourage others to participate next year. All academic research staff within the Division of Health Sciences are eligible to apply.

Translational Research Grant details and application

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PBRF - Let's do this!

We would like to remind staff they they are required by the University to complete their draft Evidence Portfolio by the 31st December 2017.

Staff in the Division are willing to help you with any questions regarding PBRF and practical advice on how to complete your EP well.

If you are unsure of your eligibility discuss this with your HoD or email one of the staff below.

School contacts for staff

DSM: Rachael Lawrence Lodge is leaving us to have a baby but her replacement Patricia McLean is already in place and ready to help you
Dentistry: Ann Powley
UOC: Janet Rountree, or Michele or Kerry
UOW, BMS, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, and Bioethics: Kerry Galvin or Michele Coleman

All HoDs wanting advice on eligibility or anything else around PBRF should contact Michele or Kerry in the first instance.

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MacGibbon PhD Travel Fellowship recipients

Following discussions with Professor Murray Brennan about the success of the first few Fellows it was decided in 2017 to award four fellowships to really get the programme moving.

The successful students are:

Jess Fairhall Jess Fairhall, School of Pharmacy
Jess will work with Dr Ben Spangler and Dr Brian Feng at the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research in San Francisco. Her topic is orthogonal prodrug chemistry.

Nathan SkinnerNathan Skinner, Departments of Anatomy, and Physiology
Nathan will work with Professor Joseph Takahashi at the University of Texas, South Western Medical. His topic is circadian rhythms and metabolism.

Megan StarkMegan Stark, Department of Pathology, University of Otago, Christchurch.
Megan will be working with Dr John Seibyl at the Institute for Neurodegenerative Disorders, New Haven, Connecticut. Her topic is amyloid and tau PET imaging of cognition in Parkinson’s disease.

Kurt Ward Kurt Ward, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Kurt will visit Professor David Fidock at Columbia University in New York. His topic area is the genetic manipulation of malaria to investigate drug resistance.

This travel funding opportunity is provided by the Alumni of the University of Otago in America Inc and represents a great opportunity to build collaborations in the USA. Successful students will receive up to NZ $12,000 each and spend 2-6 months studying there. Applications are open to PhD and DClinDent students, annually in October.
MacGibbon PhD travel fellowships

San Francisco Alumni event:
MacGibbon scholarship reports: Alumni and supporters have say in the Bay (Area)

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TechCamp initiative

mosquito The Office of the Associate Dean (Pacific), Va’a o Tautai, Health Sciences, is collaborating with the Pacific Community; the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), to run an interactive technology-focused workshop on mosquito vector control and vector-borne disease reduction.

TechCamp New Zealand is a two-day event aimed to support organisational capacity, and to strengthen innovation, solutions, and communication around mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika and dengue. Participating countries include the Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tonga. Participants include key staff working in the area of vector-borne diseases in Pacific Islands countries, staff of the University of Otago, SPC, the GLOBE Program, the US Department of State, researchers, health communicators, and technology experts.

Funded by the US Embassy in New Zealand, it is being held in Auckland on January 25 and 26, 2018. Pre-TechCamp proceedings will begin on Wednesday 24 January with a cocktail reception at the University of Otago’s Auckland Centre. Sessions will be informative and interactive with selected trainers sharing technologies related to vector control / vector-borne disease prevention, and health communication. Following TechCamp New Zealand, participants will be encouraged to implement projects that apply their new technology skills to vector control activities in their country or region.

University staff with an interest in being involved are invited to contact the TechCamp Organising Committee:

TechCamp updates are available on the website:

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Medical students present to Governor-General

From left Jermayne Maika, Jordan Tewhaiti-Smith and Nadine Houia-Ashwell at Government House
From left: Jermayne Maika, Jordan Tewhaiti-Smith and Nadine Houia-Ashwell at Government House.

Nadine Houia-Ashwell, Jermayne Maika and Jordan Tewhaiti-Smith did an amazing job presenting to the Governor-General on the outcomes of their involvement in the WakaNZ: Navigating with foresight 2017 workshop according to Chayce Glass, Tumuaki, Te Oranga (Māori Medical Students Association Aotearoa), "It was awesome to hear our whānau talk about Hauora and Taiao Māori and their aspirations for change".

The presentations shared ideas and aspirations for what a preferred future might look like in the post-Treaty Settlement environment. Participants also made a public presentation at Te Papa.

Nadine, Jermayne and Jordan were part of a group of thirty-four 18–25 year old rangatahi selected from throughout Aotearoa. The four-day kōrero held in November was in collaboration with New Zealand Treasury, and convened by the McGuinness Institute.
McGuinness Institute website

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Bioethics Centre

DG Jones postgraduate prize 232From left: Sam Nightingale, Emeritus Professor D Gareth Jones, Alex Cheung, Emily Barrington.

The winner of the inaugural DG Jones Postgraduate writing prize in Bioethics for 2017 is Alex Cheung. Nominees included Sam Nightingale, Kirio Birks (not pictured), and Emily Barrington. The winner was selected by Emeritus Professor D Gareth Jones from the highest marked essay for the Postgraduate Bioethics papers BITC401, BITC403, BITC404, BITC405, BITC406 and BITC407.

Professor Jones commented on the high quality of the work of the nominees, and commended Alex on his prize-winning essay about the ethical issues surrounding leprosy in Hawaii. The prize was a $100 University Book Shop voucher. Congratulations Alex!

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Dunedin School of Medicine

Department of Preventive and Social Medicine

3rd Pharmacoepidemiology Research Network Symposium

The Pharmacoepidemiology Research Network (PRN) hosted a successful symposium on 22 November for researchers, healthcare providers, students, and others with an interest in the utilisation and safety of medicines and medical devices. The keynote speaker, Professor Eelko Hak from the University of Groningen, gave a stimulating talk about developments in pharmacoepidemiological research methods, while representatives from Medsafe and PHARMAC spoke about pharmacovigilance and the need for ongoing research into medicine safety and utilisation. Other speakers highlighted the wide range of pharmacoepidemiological research which is being undertaken in New Zealand.

The event was sponsored by Medsafe and PHARMAC, and was attended by almost 60 people from a broad range of national and local institutions, and groups.

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Centre for International Health staff, students and collaborators

It’s not very often we have a chance to get together but this year at the Otago Global Health Institute (OGHI) conference we did!!

Unfortunately Ayesha Verall, Hai Sue Kang, Haider Al Darraji weren't able to be at conference this year - but it's a pretty good turnout including Professor Wah Win Htike and Professor Hla Hla Win (University of Medicine 1, Yangon, Myanmar), and Dr Effua Usuf (MRC Gambia Unit).

CIH3 team photo 650
From left: Sue McAllister, Fiona Gray, Michael Maze, Chuen Yen Hong, Susan Jack, Professor Wah Win Htike, John Crump, Professor Hla Hla Win, Yvonne Nartey, Tin Ohn Myat, Kate Thomas, Effua Usuf, Louise Thorn, Philip Hill, Lika Apriani.

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Otago Global Health Conference

The 10th annual conference took place in Dunedin 15-16 November, hosted by Otago Global Health Institute. The conference fosters collaboration and inter-disciplinary work on the developing world’s most pressing health problems. Once again we coordinated the timing with the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases (ASID) New Zealand Annual Scientific Meeting.

"This was the second time that New Zealand’s major global health and infectious diseases conferences have been held back-to-back," said Professor John Crump, Co-Director of the Otago Global Health Institute.

"We designed the programmes to stimulate cross-talk between infectious diseases and global health experts," said Dr James Ussher (Microbiology and Immunology) who organised the ASID conference. "The global spread of antimicrobial resistant bacteria is particularly relevant to this year’s conference; addressing this threat requires collaboration across disciplines and between countries. We were delighted to welcome our close collaborators from Gambia, Myanmar, and Timor Leste among others to these meetings."

The two conferences were bridged by the 2017 McAuley Oration entitled Converting economic growth into better health: which developing countries are better and why? presented by world authority on international development, Professor Mark McGillivray from Deakin University.
2017 Otago Global Health Institute conference

OGHI Conference art work

For the past six years we have been fortunate to have Macandrew Bay school children involved with creating artwork for display, and talking about their art at the OGHI conference. This year's topic was Safety and the issues we face as a child. We really appreciate the involvement of the children and teachers and this is always a conference highlight! Thanks to Stewart Caithness Gray Optometrists​ who sponsor the childrens' artwork.

Macandrew Bay children and three Professors 650
From left: Professor Mark McGillivray, Macandrew Bay school children with their art and certificates, Professors David Fielding and John Crump.

OGHI Conference student prizes

Professor Mark McGillivray, who judged both the poster and oral presentations, commended all the students on their very high-standard presentation – so well done everyone! The student prizes were kindly donated by Stewart Caithness Gray Optometrists.

Student Oral Presentation David Fielding and Michael Maze
David Fielding presents Michael Maze with his prize.

Best student oral presentation: Michael J Maze, Social and health system determinants of mortality among febrile inpatients in Tanzania: A prospective social biopsy cohort study. Michael is based in the Centre for International Health.

Student Poster Presentation David Fielding and Yonatan Dinku 232 copy
David Fielding presents Yonatan Dinku with his award.

Best student poster presentation: Yonatan Dinku, Neighbourhood ethnic diversity and child health outcomes in Ethiopia. Yonatan is based at the Department of Economics.

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Department of Women's and Children's Health

Congratulations to Dr Ben Wheeler who has been awarded this week:

  • A Cure Kid's grant
  • The Laurenson Award (Otago Medical Research Foundation)
  • An APEG research grant (Australasian Pediatric Endocrine Group)

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Faculty of Dentistry

Dental outreach: Sugar in your diet - kino te pai

A seven-month outreach project led by Faculty of Dentistry lecturer Dr Carolina Loch is helping to educate primary school-aged children about healthy food choices and good oral hygiene. The Sugar in your diet: kino te pai project, funded as an Otago Participatory Science Project, has seen staff and postgraduate students from the Faculty of Dentistry and the Department of Human Nutrition work with Dunedin’s Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ōtepoti staff, pupils, and their whānau to investigate the hidden sugar content in their diets, and how pupils can improve their oral health.

The team has visited, with a science experiment, each month to help the pupils discover the effects of sugar on teeth and their general health, and a tooth brushing and oral hygiene intervention has also been implemented – with the children brushing their teeth every day at school. The project has involved the children visiting the Faculty of Dentistry to see what goes on in the Walsh building. The project concluded on 5 December with a hui at which children shared the results of their experiments with their whānau.

Children learning about oral health in a lab 650
Te Kura Kaupapa pupils get into some oral health science in the Faculty of Dentistry.

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SJWRI teams up with the MedTech CoRE

Researchers from the Faculty of Dentistry Sir John Walsh Research Institute recently took part in a Medical Technologies Centre of Research Excellence workshop hosted at the University of Otago Auckland Centre. The workshop identified several common areas of research interest and resulted in new collaborations. One collaboration, between Professor Paul Brunton and Associate Professor Andrew Taberner and Dr Bryan Ruddy (ABI, University of Auckland) and Dr David White (AUT), went on to receive MedTech CoRE seed funding.

SJWRI and MedTech teams 650
Sir John Walsh oral health researchers met with MedTech researchers to find common areas of research interest.

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School of Biomedical Sciences

Department of Anatomy

Marsden success

Five researchers in the Department of Anatomy have attracted $3.3m in funding from the latest Marsden Fund round. Our congratulations go to Dr Rosemary Brown and Dr Charlotte King who each receive Fast Start Grants; and Associate Professor Greg Anderson, Dr Michael Knapp and Dr Megan Wilson who have each received funding for their research projects. For more information visit the Department of Anatomy website:
Outstanding research projects attract Marsden funding

Hercus fellowship

Congratulations to Dr Mike Pankhurst who has received a Hercus Fellowship from the Health Research Council. For information on Mike’s research please visit the Department of Anatomy website:
Researcher awarded Hercus Fellowship

Egyptian mummy facial approximation

Dr Louisa Baillie has recently completed an updated facial approximation of Otago Museum’s Egyptian mummy. Using new and updated imaging software and approximation guidelines, Louisa has not only been able to put a face to the 2,400 year old mummy, she was able to give us a glimpse into the life, health and status of the lady thought to have originated from the ancient city of Thebes. The face is on display next to the mummy in the People of the World gallery at the Otago Museum. Read more in our news story:
A face from the past


Dr Ping Liu, Dr Louise Parr-Brownlie, Professor John Reynolds and Dr Joanna Williams were successful in receiving funding from Brain Research New Zealand (BRNZ). The five Project and Explorer grants will support and help develop new research in the Department in the areas of brain stimulation, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. For more information visit the Department of Anatomy website:
Anatomy neuroscience researchers receive funding

Dr Erica Todd has been awarded a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship by the Royal Society Rutherford Foundation Trust. Erica will use fish such as the spotty (Notolabrus celiodotus) and bluehead (Thalassoma bifasciatum) wrasse to study the genetic and environmental bases of natural sex change.

Brennan Carne is the first recipient of the Peter Hurst Summer Studentship Scholarship. Brennan, a third year Medicine student, is undertaking a summer research project in the Department of Anatomy. His project investigates the relationship of the chorda tympani nerve (CTN) to the lingual nerve. The position of the connection is clinically important for mandibular fracture as anaesthesia and surgery can result in damage to the CTN, resulting in a loss of taste sensation for the patient.

Postgraduate student Anu Kaw received an Appreciation Award from the University of Otago Disability Information and Support, for providing first-class tutoring support to students with a disability. Well done Anu!

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Department of Biochemistry

Congratulations to the Biochemistry staff who were successful in the latest Marsden round. In addition to Richard Macknight, Sally McCormick, and Adam Middleton’s grants, Paul Gardner, who will be taking up a position here in January, joins Peter Fineran in his CRISPR-Cas project.

Members of the Biochemistry Department were out in force to listen to Parry Guilford’s Distinguished Research Medal lecture at the Teachers College auditorium recently. In the lecture Parry explained the nature of cancer, then outlined his work across four different areas of cancer research. The talk demonstrated the empathy, intelligence, and ingenuity that have enabled Parry to successfully translate his research for clinical use, in ways that have helped save many lives and will continue to do so.
Seize opportunities urges Distinguished Research Medal recipient (Bulletin)
Distinguished Research Medal Lecture – Evolution, families and cancer (YouTube, 1 hour and 10 mins)

Miriam Sharpe and Shar Rae-Whitcombe flew up to Wellington in mid-November to spend a week in 'Lab in a Box' with primary school children in Stokes Valley. The experience was apparently exhausting, but lots of fun too - although Shar came home with some species of small-child lurgy. The visit was front page news in the local paper The Hutt News, and thus made it to the national news via Stuff. Miriam and Shar would like to thank Fieke Neumann (Anatomy), for lending interesting microscope slides, which were very popular indeed.
Scientific roadshow visits students at Koraunui School (Stuff)

Students at Koraunui School 650px
Making molecules at Koraunui School in 'Lab in a Box'.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology

Inaugural joint research celebration

The Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Department of Biochemistry held a combined research celebration in early December to showcase the quality of research in their shared areas and demonstrate the outcomes of collaboration.

The full-day event featured principal investigator presentations, 3-minute talks and two poster sessions from staff and student students.
Microbiology and Immunology and Biochemistry hold inaugural joint Research Celebration

Dr Sergio Morales joins Antartic expedition

Dr Sergio Morales is a part of a large multi-disciplinary research team that is venturing to Antarctica to study the impact of global warming on the Ross Ice Shelf.

The team of 32 specialists is led and coordinated by Professor Christina Hulbe of the Department of Surveying, and Dr Christian Ohneiser of the Department of Geology. Professor Hulbe says the goal of the research programme is to understand the processes and ice / ocean interactions that matter most for change in the region and locate all-important sediment deep beneath the ice to give clues to how the ice retreats. This involves complex ice-drilling methods and the work of a wide range of experts from engineers and geologists to microbiologists.
Dr Sergio Morales joins Ross Ice Shelf research expedition

Four Marsden fund successes

Congratulations to the four Microbiology and Immunology researchers who have made successful bids for 2017 Marsden funding.

  • Dr Bruce Russell ($960,000), Unraveling the molecular basis for vivax malaria's unhealthy attraction to human reticulocytes
  • Associate Professor Peter Fineran ($945,000), Uncovering regulatory networks controlling CRISPR-Cas adaptive immunity
  • Dr Rob Fagerlund (Fast Start Grant, $300,000), CRISPR-Cas immunity in cyanobacteria
  • Professor Greg Cook (Associate Investigator, $920,000), TB or not TB - examining the origin and evolution of tuberculosis in the pre-European Pacific

Four researchers awarded funding from 2017 Marsden fund

Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship

Dr Htin Lin Aung, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Cook Lab, has been awarded the prestigious Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship in the latest Health Research Council (HRC) funding announcement. The $500,000 grant will enable him to continue his research into combating tuberculosis at local and international front lines.

The research aims to develop next-generation sequencing technology as a molecular weapon, and to develop rapid molecular diagnostic tools to reduce the emergence and spread of drug-resistant Tb.
Dr Htin Lin Aung receives $500,000 Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowship

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology


Medical students at the National University of Samoa
Medical students at the National University of Samoa.

Professor Rhonda J Rosengren spent two weeks during October teaching pharmacology to first-year medical students at the National University of Samoa. She also visited the Scientific Research Organization of Samoa with the aim to develop research collaborations on natural product development.

Student Achievements

  • Bettina Zadehvakili completed her PhD examination in November and will graduate on 9 December 2017
  • Christabel Wilson completed her MSc examination in June and will graduate on 16 December 2017
  • Shuli Chen completed her MSc examination in August and will graduate on 16 December 2017
  • Tafadzwa Nhemachena completed his MSc examination in October and will graduate on 16 December 2017


Dr Lyn Wise and Dr Zabeen Lateef attended the Wound Healing Symposium that was held in Adelaide, Australia on 27 October 2017.

Houman Alimoradi (PhD student) attended the 19th International Conference on Drug Delivery & Nanoparticles that was held in Melbourne, Australia from 29-30 November 2017.

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Funding Successes

  • Dr John Ashton was successful with his application to the Dean’s Bequest Fund for his project Combination ALK/MAPK pathway inhibitors for crizotinib-resistant ALK-positive lung cancer ($16,050)
  • Associate Professor Ivan Sammut and Dr Joanne Harrison (Pharmacology and Toxicology) and Professor David Larsen (Chemistry PI) were successful with their Marsden application for their project Polymer-immobilized carbon monoxide donors: Agents for tissue protection ($910,000)
  • Dr Yiwen Zheng was successful with her Brain Research New Zealand application for her project Is long-term potentiation in the inferior colliculus the underlying mechanism of chronic tinnitus? ($244,913)
  • Professor Paul Smith and Associate Professor Ping Liu (Anatomy PI) were successful with their Brain Research New Zealand application for their project Biomarker identification and validation of Alzheimer’s disease - A targeted metabolomics approach ($249,321)
  • Dr John Ashton was successful with his BMS Strategic Research Fund (Category 1) application for his project Testing the toxicity of synthetic cannabinoids ($4,982)
  • Dr John Ashton was successful with his BMS Postdoctoral Fellowship application for his project To determine cell-signalling targets for drug combinations designed to overcome drug resistance in oncogene-driven lung cancer ($199,639)
  • Gowthami Vangala (PhD student) received funding from Health Sciences Division to attend the 51st Winter Symposium on Stem Cells: Today's research; tomorrow's therapies to be held in Miami, Florida, from 28-31 January 2018 ($2,000)
  • Orleans Martey (PhD student) was successful with his application to the Maurice & Phyllis Paykel Trust for funding to attend the Society of Toxicology annual meeting to be held in San Antonio, Texas USA, from 11-15 March 2018 ($1,000)
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Toxicology Strategic Fund

Recently we were awarded funds from the Division of Health Sciences and the School of Biomedical Sciences to provide a series of small research grants to increase the awareness of toxicology. Our first award round projects show some great new collaborations, and the breadth of toxicology as a discipline. We congratulate our recipients. We will be having another grant round early in the new year for researchers from across the University.

Dr John Ashton: Investigation into the stability of the acid metabolites of recent generation synthetic cannabinoids
This project is in collaboration with ESR and is looking at ways to monitor the new synthetic cannabinoids that have been causing deaths around NZ. The death rate of synthetic cannabinoids has recently risen sharply, despite the law changes. ESR need to stay ahead of the curve to ensure they can track and monitor exposure and hopefully prevent these new drugs coming into the country.

Dr Andrew Cridge: Cytochrome P450 gene expression as a biomarker for exposure to environmental toxins
This project will be using honey bee genetics to determine if we can screen for exposure to toxins with the hope of extending it to a range of species both native and introduced. This is key for determining things such as how much agricultural chemicals impact our native species. The researchers are from Biochemistry and are working with Landcare.

Dr Carolina Loch: Wisdom in teeth: Biomonitoring metal exposure in aquatic environments using dolphin teeth
The investigators are based in the dental school and are working with collaborators in Australia. They will be using museum specimens to track metal exposure in marine species. This is important for determining exposure to pollution in the ocean.

Professor Indrawati Oey: Are crosslinked edible films comprising zein proteins, chitosan and PVA safe for consumption?
The research team in food science have developed a new edible packaging material for foods, the project is the first safety test on these compounds. If the film is successful it could dramatically reduce waste going to landfill.

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Department of Physiology

Marsden Project Grants

We had a phenomenal outcome in the latest Royal Society of NZ Marsden Fund round, with four Physiology staff awarded 3-year project grants:

  • Dr Rebecca Campbell: Androgen excess and the female brain ($960,000)
  • Dr Jeff Erickson (AIs Drs Regis Lamberts and Livia Hool): NO Heart: A novel mechanism for modulating cardiac calcium by nitric oxide ($937,000)
  • Prof Brian Hyland (AI Dr Rebecca Campbell): Defining the brain circuits that interface hunger state with reward signalling to guide food consumption ($959,000)
  • Dr Karl Iremonger: The sex of stress: Understanding sex differences in neural circuits controlling stress ($958,000)
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HeartOtago Cardiovascular Symposium a great success

Our cardiovascular research strengths were highlighted in November, as scientists from around New Zealand, Australia, and the world came together in Dunedin to share the latest work in the field.

The symposium was mainly organised by Dr Jeff Erickson from the Department of Physiology. Jeff is also a member of HeartOtago, a consortium of cardiovascular researchers from the Departments of Physiology and Medicine, and Dunedin Hospital clinicians, aiming to better understand the molecular nature of cardiac disease in patients with heart disease and to translate the laboratory-based cardiovascular research into the clinical setting.

The two-day seminar culminated in Prof Paolo Madeddu from the University of Bristol giving the 2017 Sir John Eccles Prestigious Lecture to a packed lecture theatre.

Paolo Madeddu holding the Eccles Lecturer presentation award
Associate Professor Rajesh Katare with Prof Paolo Madeddu who is holding the presentation gift for his delivery of the  2017 Sir John Eccles Prestigious Lecture.

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Infertility researched published in PNAS

Professor Allan Herbison, Dr Su Han, Dr Jenny Clarkson and colleagues have had their findings on how the brain controls fertility, published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. They have identified a group of about 2,000 kisspeptin neurons in the brain's hypothalamus that synchronise their activity to generate the hormonal pulse, a discovery which has important implications for better understanding and manipulating fertility.
Clarkson, J., Han, S.Y., Piet, R., McLennan, T., Kane, G.M., Ng, J., Porteous, R.W., Kim, J.S., Colledge, W.H., Iremonger, K.J., & Herbison, A.E. (2017). Definition of the hypothalamic GnRH pulse generator in mice. PNAS, doi/10.1073/pnas.1713897114

We would also like to congratulate

  • Philip Kelly was nominated and awarded a Disability Information and Support, Appreciation Award for 2016. He was presented with the award at a ceremony on 27th October.
  • Ashley Gillon has been awarded the 2018 Helen Rosa Thacker Scholarship in Neurological Research.
  • Matt Hall (PhD student) has been awarded a Gilbert M Tothill Scholarship in Psychological Medicine.
  • Navneet Lal (PhD student) has been awarded a Henry Kelsey Scholarship.
  • Nathan Skinner has been awarded a MacGibbon PhD travel Fellowship to work at the University of Texas, South Western Medical for approximately 4 months.
  • Danielle Schafer who has completed her MSc examination.

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School of Pharmacy

School of Pharmacy Research Day

Dr Michele Coleman, Research and Development Manager, Division of Health Sciences and Professor Peter Dearden, Director, Genetics Otago, joined the School of Pharmacy staff and postgraduate students on Monday 16 October to discuss Research Impact.

School of Pharmacy staff, Professor Sarah Hook, Dr Carla Dillon, Dr Sue Heydon and Dr Henry Ndukwe took part in ‘PechaKucha Fast-Paced Pharmacy’ presentations where they spoke for 10 minutes about ‘Capturing research impact’.

2017 Pre-graduation Ceremony

Congratulations to our graduating students. Award winners were announced at the School of Pharmacy Pre-graduation ceremony at the Link on Friday 8th December. They were:

  • Priyanki Rakesh Gandhi: Thomson Reuters Prize in Pharmacy for the highest overall mark in Pharmacy Law, and the Pharmacy Defence Association Prize for the highest standard in the Pharmacy Law and Ethics component.
  • Paula Sutton: Christina White Prize for best overall achievement in the BPharm degree overall, Pharmacy Prize in Pharmacy Practice 4th Year (Douglas) for best achievement in the fourth year Professional Pharmacy Practice paper determined by results from the examination and course, Pharmacy Prize in Clinical Pharmacy (NZHPA), for best achievement in the 3 Quality Use of Medicines papers: PHCY345, 471 and 473, and Top Student of PHCY 472.
  • Nina Edwardes: Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand Prize for the highest standard of attainment in fourth year examination.
  • Other Top Student award winners: Ehsan Tehseen (PHCY470 and PHCY 473), and Olivia Hayman (PHCY471).

Congratulations to our four graduating PhD students

  • Siddharth Matikonda (Supervising team: Dr Allan Gamble and Professor Sarah Hook).
  • Sujita Narayan (Supervisor, Dr Prasad Nishtala).
  • Deji Agbowuro (Supervising team: Associate Professor Joel Tyndall and Dr Allan Gamble).
  • Bettina Zadehvakili (Supervising team: Dr Greg Giles (Pharmacology) and Associate Professor Paul Fawcett)

Congratulations to our master's student

  • Catherine Herd (Supervised by Professor Pauline Norris).

Congratulations to our staff

Dr Prasad Nishtala is the recipient of a highly prestigious ASCEPT Certara New Investigator Award for 2017.

Congratulations to our students

PhD student, Siddharth Matikonda, who has been placed on the Health Science Exceptional Thesis list for 2017.
PhD student, Chloe Campbell who has been awarded the 2017 PhD Clinical Research prize worth $500.

Congratulations to our 2017 honours students

  • Charlotte Brenkley (Supervising team: Associate Professor June Tordoff and Dr Alesha Smith)
  • Anna Cao (Supervised by Professor Steve Duffull)
  • Sophie Elliott-Buma (Supervised by Professor Sarah Hook)
  • Brittany Hessell (Supervised by Dr Shyamal Das)
  • Nina Qin McMurtrie (Supervised by Dr Prasad Nishtala)
  • Sanjay Patel (Supervised by Dr Arlene McDowell)
  • Hannah Potter (Supervised by Professor Carlo Marra and Associate Professor Natalie Medlicott)
  • Lily Qiu (Supervised by Dr Greg Walker)
  • Jessica Spence (Supervised by Dr Susan Heydon)

SOP Student and Staff graduation 650
Photograph by Alan Dove.

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School of Physiotherapy

Men's Health Symposium

David Baxter providing an overview to conference attendeesProfessor David Baxter presents an overview on New Zealand men's health.

The Centre for Men’s Health held its inaugural symposium Men’s Health: Meeting the Challenges, in November. The event aimed to bring everyone in New Zealand who is interested in Men’s Health together; to share research findings, and discuss future potential collaboration opportunities to improve New Zealand men’s health.

Around 60 delegates attended, comprising of a diverse mix of researchers, physicians from the Southern District Health Board, stakeholders from non-governmental institutions, and individuals who were interested in men’s health.

The keynote speaker was Professor Gary Wittert, the Director at the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men's Health, University of Adelaide, Australia.

A rich mix of senior and experienced researchers, and stakeholders from non-governmental institutions also shared their research and/or experiences in men’s health.

Centre for Men's Health conference news report
Healthy progress for men (ODT)

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Inaugural Research Impact Conference a roaring success

Over one hundred academics, researchers, policymakers and stakeholders gathered in Dunedin to discuss, debate, and learn about meaningful research impact. Realising the Potential, a conference organised jointly by the Ageing Well National Science Challenge, CHARR, and CARE, explored how best to reap the rewards of scientific research for our end users.

Held at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery from 21-22 November, the conference examined impact from many angles. International keynote speakers described best practice; academics and stakeholders illustrated successful models of collaboration and community engagement; and interactive workshops offered attendees the chance to think about achieving impact, whether that be through the commercialisation of research, influencing policy change, or delivering new health care into our communities. A panel discussion between National Science Challenges: Ageing Well, A Better Start, and Healthier Lives, looked at how researchers are proactively engaging with Māori communities.

A public lecture, For the People, By the People: falls prevention and the story of Steady As You Go (SAYGO), opened the conference. A packed auditorium was treated to a presentation from the team responsible for this hugely successful programme. Representatives from Age Concern: Margaret Dando and Susan Davidson, and Otago’s Associate Professor Debra Waters (Director of CARE), explained how the SAYGO collaboration came to fruition and where it is heading. Six SAYGO peer-leaders also shared their experience. Following the lecture there was a chance to reflect on the social as well as physical benefits of programmes like SAYGO.

Overall, the Research Impact Conference was a wonderful event that allowed everyone involved in, and who uses and benefits from research, to go away with a better understanding of how to realise the potential of research so it can work to measurably and meaningfully improve New Zealand.

Research Impact conference 650
Malcolm Rickerby, President of Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's, Canterbury, addresses the audience.

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University of Otago, Christchurch 

Congratulations to Pathology

The University of Otago, Christchurch’s Pathology Department was awarded the prize for the small department with the best postgraduate research culture. It hosts more than 25 postgraduate health students.

One Health Aotearoa Symposium

One Health Aotearoa, a University of Otago Research Centre, co-led by Christchurch Dean, Professor David Murdoch, recently held a very successful symposium that brought together infectious diseases researchers and others interested in a collaborative approach to addressing important health hazards in New Zealand and beyond.

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University of Otago, Wellington

Student Awards ceremony

Wellington’s top-ranking medical and radiation therapy students enjoyed their own version of the red carpet at the University of Otago, Wellington (UOW)’s 2017 Awards Ceremony at the Roxy Theatre on 17 November. Some 48 awards were presented to the UOW’s 4th, 5th, and 6th year medical students, radiation therapy students, and postgraduates. Speeches covered the year’s highlights and more pragmatic issues – luck and obligation, resilience in the face of demanding careers, and the importance of valuing fleeting time.
2017 Awards Ceremony Hui Whakanui Tauira

Daymen Huband speaking to the audience 650
Sixth-year medical student Daymen Huband speaks on behalf of his fellow students at the end-of-year awards ceremony.

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Ewen Coleman retires after more than 40 years at Otago

Ewen Coleman recently retired from his role of Human Resources Administrator & Support Services Supervisor, after more than 40 years working at the University of Otago, Wellington. Ewen, who joined the fledgling Wellington Clinical School as a research assistant in microbiology in 1976, will continue, however, to coordinate the database of actors, called on and prepped to play the role of patients for the students’ end-of-year exams. For Ewen, the 7.5-hours a week position is the perfect adjunct to his extramural interest in theatre – as both director and Dominion Post reviewer.

Ewen Coleman 650
Ewen Coleman - an integral part of the life and times of the University for 40 years.

At the recent UOW student awards ceremony the Dean and Head of the UOW Campus Sunny Collings thanked Ewen on behalf of all students and staff: “Ewen has been an integral part of the life and times of the university, particularly in student and staff-related roles. His grasp of institutional knowledge is extraordinary and his organisational skills are mythic.”

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Associate Dean Pacific

We are pleased to welcome Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu who has been appointed to UOW as our new Associate Dean Pacific.

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Kids’Cam research reveals New Zealand children’s exposure to junk food, alcohol, and the sun

The high levels of exposure of New Zealand children to unhealthy food advertisements, alcohol marketing in supermarkets, and sun during school lunch breaks, has been revealed thanks to innovative use of digital camera technology by UOW researchers in collaboration with the University of Auckland.

The Kids’Cam researchers used automated wearable cameras and GPS units to study the world of 168 children (aged between 11 and 13) from 16 randomly selected schools in the Wellington region. The cameras recorded photos every seven seconds and locations every five seconds, over four days. Many ancillary projects using the Kids’Cam data are expected from the initial study. A parallel study has also been completed with 108 similar-aged children in Tonga.

Read more about Kids’Cam research:

Coming up: UOW Public Health Summer School – 7 to 28 February 2018

Next February’s Summer School offers 30 courses over 21 days on topics ranging from core subjects such as epidemiology and biostats to hard-hitting public health issues concerning firearms, e-cigarettes, lessons from the 1918 influenza pandemic, suicide prevention and mental health research relating to indigenous populations, and much more. It is the longest running school of its kind in Australasia and one of the largest in the world in terms of the range of courses and attendees. It attracts hundreds of people from across New Zealand and beyond, and brings together global and regional collaborators on topical public health issues. Earlybird rates are available until 20 December 2017.
Public Health Summer School information and registration

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Other news

New milestone for postgraduate research opportunities database

The postgraduate research opportunities database has exceeded 200 active listings for the first time. In the past year, database listings have had over 25,000 page views (18,500 unique page views), with an average time on the page of 1m17s.

One of its best features is that prospective students can search by their own academic background. This means students with business or humanities backgrounds can also find appropriate Health Sciences opportunities.

In November, the database was rolled out to UOC departments and research groups, and recently to almost all UOW departments. The total number of websites offering the database is now around 40 across the Division.

Top-10 most-popular installations for the year ended 4 December 2017:
1. Division of Health Sciences
2. Department of Medicine (Dunedin)
3. Faculty of Dentistry
4. Dunedin School of Medicine
5. Department of Preventive and Social Medicine
6. University of Otago, Christchurch
7. Department of Public Health
8. School of Physiotherapy
9. Otago Medical School
10. School of Pharmacy

If you’d like to advertise a postgraduate opportunity, please submit your listing at:

 If you'd like to read more about how the database works visit the blog:

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New website

The Centre for Neuroendocrinology has launched a new website.


Global Migrations Conference February 20–22 2018, Castle Lecture Theatre Complex, Dunedin

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