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Health Sciences Research Forum

2018 Otago Spotlight Series: Infectious Disease Research

We have pdfs of the presentations available now below, and will have videos of our research presentations available soon.

OSS Infectious Disease Research programme image
Download our Infectious Disease Research programme (PDF 2.1MB)

Need a day mixing with an interesting array of colleagues while holding fascination conversations over delicious food, and being exposed to thought-provoking research?

Catch the bug and join us!

Tuesday 11 September, 9am-3.30pm, Nordmeyer Theatre, 23A Mein St, Newtown, Wellington
Venue map

Join us to hear University of Otago researchers providing short, easy-to-understand outlines of their work:

  • Disease prevention and control
  • Understanding bacteria, viruses and parasites
  • Animal, plant and environmental links to human health


No cost to attend and plenty to learn.
It’s not too late - register now:
Email wendy.houliston@otago.ac.nz

Visit our website for more about Otago's research in infectious disease:
Infectious Disease Research at Otago

Student poster competition

A poster competition will be held for students involved in infectious disease research in Wellington the evening before the forum (Monday 10 September). Students are asked to clearly communicate their research methodology and findings to others who may not be a specialist in their field. Finalists will present their work to the forum audience on Tuesday for final judging.

Entries for the poster competition have now closed.

Infectious disease forum programme and  presenters

9.00am Mihi

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9.15am Professor Michael Baker

Topic: Rheumatic Fever - How can we end this terrible disease of poverty?

Michael Baker Professor Michael Baker is a public health physician and Professor in the Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington. He is the Director of the Health Environment & Infection Research Unit (HEIRU) and a Co-Director of He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme.

Michael has broad research interests across infectious diseases, environmental health and housing. A key focus of his collaborative work is on rheumatic fever where he is leading three Health Research Council funded projects. These studies aim to identify modifiable risk factors for this disease, understand the role of skin infections, and find an optimal set of interventions to end rheumatic fever as a major health problem in New Zealand.

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9.45am Associate Professor Bruce Russell

Topic: Parasite threats to New Zealand: Far, near and future

Bruce RussellAssociate Professor Bruce Russell investigates Vivax Malaria (or Relapsing Malaria), the most widely distributed, difficult to diagnose and treat cause of human malaria.

Dr Russell's laboratory focuses in of the biology of the parasite Plasmodium vivax (the cause of vivax malaria) and how we can kill it using therapeutics or vaccinations. To do this his team has developed key ex vivo tools and methods to examine P. vivax drug susceptibility and reticulocyte invasion. In addition to vivax malaria the lab also undertakes research into the biology and epidemiology of protozoal parasites of importance to human health in New Zealand.

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10.05 Associate Professor Catherine Stedman

Topic: Hepatitis C: Time for elimination?

Catherine Stedman imageDr Stedman is Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch.

Dr Stedman's field of research is liver disease and pharmacology, focusing on hepatitis C and autoimmune liver diseases. Her published papers in hepatitis C epidemiology
have influenced global understanding of chronic hepatitis C epidemiology including government and Ministry of Health understanding and approach to hepatitis C treatment strategies.

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10.25am Morning tea and coffee

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11.00am Dr James Ussher

Topic: New technologies for diagnostics

James Ussher Dr James Ussher's research interest is infection and immunity. In particular, he is interested in mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells, their role in antibacterial immunity, and how they might be harnessed to prevent or treat bacterial infection.

He has been involved in several fundamental discoveries in MAIT cell biology. He is also interested in the antimicrobial resistance, in particular its rapid detection, characterisation, and transmission, especially in Enterobacteriaceae. His clinical specialty is medical microbiology.

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11.20am Professor Kurt Krause

Topic: New anti-microbial development based on targeting the enzyme, glutamate racemase

Kurt Krause imageProfessor Kurt Krause is a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Otago.

He has a longstanding interest in structure and function in biology and his research areas include the structure and function of enzymes and proteins important in infectious diseases, such as bacterial pathogenesis factors, antibiotic targets, viral immunomodulatory proteins, and bioluminescence related proteins.

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11.40am Dr Jo Kirman

Topic: Deciphering the protective immune response to Tuberculosis

Jo Kirman Dr Jo Kirman's areas of research include Animal Disease, Applied and Molecular Immunology, Medical Microbiology and Microbial Pathogenesis, Vaccines Immunology and Technology.

Her primary research focus is the generation and maintenance of the protective T-cell immune response to Tuberculosis (TB). Tuberculosis kills over one million people worldwide each year. Additionally, she is interested in how to prevent paediatric infectious diseases including human respiratory syncytial virus and rotavirus.

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12.00pm Finalists of the student poster competition present their work

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12.20pm Lunch

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1.20pm Professor Gregory M Cook, FRSNZ

Topic: Opportunities for Infectious Disease Research in New Zealand: a Biomedical Perspective.

Greg Cook Professor Greg Cook's research is focused on developing bacterial metabolism and energetics as a new target space for drug development to combat bacterial pathogens in humans (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) and treat and prevent disease in food animals and plants. The goal of this work is to produce new and fast-acting drugs that will address the issues of antimicrobial resistance and persistence.

Cook leads a multidisciplinary science team:

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1.50pm Associate Professor Brian Monk

Topic: The hidden danger of fungal infections

Brian MonkAssociate Professor Brian Monk considers it imperative that new ways are discovered to combat infectious disease, especially where clinically significant drug resistance has emerged.

Dr Monk uses molecular genetic manipulation of yeast and bacterial systems to express drug targets for effective screening of compound libraries. Most of the antifungal targets he has developed are membrane proteins. Other targets include fungal transcription factors and enzymes involved in fungal riboflavin biosynthesis.

The yeast expression system patented by Dr Monk in 2003 is used widely to express membrane proteins from a range of sources including pathogenic fungi, plants, and humans.

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2.10pm Dr Amanda Kvalsvig

Topic: Pre-hospital management of meningococcal disease: New evidence to optimise survival

Amanda Kvalsvig imageAmanda Kvalsvig has a dual background in clinical paediatrics and epidemiology. She is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Public Health at UOW. Her research interests are centred on the social determinants of children’s health and wellbeing: current topics include infectious diseases, breastfeeding, child poverty and early child development. She also has a methodological interest in the challenges of analysing existing data to develop high-quality evidence for policy and practice.

Dr Kvalsvig recently obtained a PhD degree for her epidemiological investigation of meningococcal disease management; the thesis was awarded Exceptional status.

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2.30pm Dr Natalie Martin

Topic: Childhood bacterial and aseptic meningitis: findings from the UK-ChiMES study and beyond

Natalie Martin imageDr Natalie Martin is a general paediatrician working with Professor Andrew Day on paediatric inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) research including early life predictors and outcomes in IBD. She completed a DPhil in Paediatrics at Oxford University in 2018. She worked as a clinical research fellow in the Department of Paediatrics, University of Oxford, UK from 2012 to 2015. She trained in paediatrics at Christchurch, Palmerston North, Starship and Middlemore hospitals. Her research interests include bacterial and viral meningitis in children. She is extensively involved in a current UK multicentre cohort study of childhood central nervous system infection, in addition to epidemiological studies.

2.50pm Associate Professor Patricia Priest

Topic: The 'One Health' concept

Patricia Priest imageAssociate Professor Patricia Priest is Head of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at the Dunedin School of Medicine. She has research interests in infectious disease epidemiology and prevention / control, screening, and public health / epidemiology.

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3.10pm Wrap-up discussion

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3.30pm Afternoon tea and coffee

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