Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Health research to benefit New Zealanders receives major support


Wednesday 10 June 2009 2:56pm

A wide range of world-class University of Otago research aimed at improving New Zealanders' health and wellbeing has received major support in the Health Research Council's (HRC) latest annual funding round.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise) Professor Harlene Hayne warmly welcomed the announcement of the new funding.

"It is fantastic that more than two dozen Otago research projects with great potential to produce significant health benefits for individuals, families and communities have been supported," Professor Hayne says.

The $30.3m gained goes towards 25 health research programmes and projects at the University, ranging from investigations of basic biomedical mechanisms involved in cancer and other diseases to community-level interventions aimed at making homes healthier and tackling childhood obesity.

Professor Hayne says that one major new programme with the potential to reap huge rewards in improving health and wellbeing involves the internationally-acclaimed Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, which has tracked the progress of around 1000 people born in 1972-73.

"In the decades it has been running, the Study has yielded vast amounts of invaluable information about almost every conceivable aspect of people's health and development as they grow into adulthood. With this new funding, the study is poised to generate further knowledge to guide policy and practice in promoting good health and positive aging for New Zealanders."

Other examples of Otago's newly-funded initiatives include studies into whether Vitamin D supplementation reduces respiratory infections; how to reduce barriers to care for pregnant mothers and their whanau; new approaches to reducing tobacco use; and biological mechanisms involved in heart health.

The contracts comprise four multi-million dollar, multi-year programmes, 17 projects, three emerging researcher first grants and a feasibility study. The recipients are from across University's three main campuses in Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington.

Three new programmes focus on improving home environments to enhance health; looking at disease risk in participants in Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study as they move into middle age; and gaining new insights into the effects oxidative stress has on the body. A fourth programme devoted to unraveling how the brain controls fertility has been extended.

The new programmes are led by Professors Philippa Howden-Chapman, Richie Poulton and Christine Winterbourn from the University's Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch campuses, respectively:

  • Around $3m in funding for Wellington's He Kainga Oranga/Community Housing and Health Intervention Research Programme will support three projects. Researchers will study the health effects of mouldy housing, along with interventions aimed at reducing injuries in the home and improving the health of elderly COPD sufferers through warmer homes.
  • The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study gains $4.6m for a programme investigating aging and risk for chronic diseases in study members. The three projects focus on psychiatric and social predictors of cardiovascular health; oral health at 38; and sexual health and reproductive health at the same age.
  • The Free Radical Research Group at the University of Otago, Christchurch, will undertake a $2.2m programme investigating oxidative stress in health and disease. The researchers will look at the production and consequences of reactive oxidants in the body in relation to inflammation, infection, cardiovascular disease and cell signalling.

An existing HRC programme involving Professor Allan Herbison and colleagues at the Centre for Neuroendocrinology centred on how the brain regulates fertility is being extended for a further three years through a $3.25m grant.

The overall goal of their work is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the neural mechanisms controlling fertility in health and disease to enable new clinical treatments for infertility. Centre researchers will also study the control of fertility by the hormone prolactin in a separate project.

Professor Hayne warmly congratulated all the Otago recipients, who range from senior professors to early-career researchers, on their success in the highly competitive round.

"I am delighted that so many of our health researchers have gained such significant funding to support their important work."

For more information, contact

Professor Harlene Hayne
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise)
Tel 64 3 479 8835

Otago's New HRC Contracts

Please note that only the first named investigator is listed:

New HRC Programmes:

He Kainga Oranga/Community Healthy Housing Intervention Research Programme
36 months, $2,966,584
Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman (Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington)

Three Projects:

The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study of Aging and Risk for Chronic Disease
36 months, $4,568,389
Professor Richie Poulton (Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine)

Three projects:

Oxidative Stress in Health and Disease
36 months, $2,215,010
Professor Christine Winterbourn (Department of Pathology, University of Otago, Christchurch)

Three projects:

HRC Programme Extension

Neuroendocrine regulation of fertility
36 months, $3,242,207
Professor Allan Herbison (Department of Physiology, Otago School of Medical Sciences)

Four projects:

HRC Projects

Dr Sunny Collings (Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington)
The Nature and Extent of Informal Coercion in Community Mental Health in New Zealand
18 months, $1,884,065

Professor Julian Crane (Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington)
Nicotine inhaler plus patch in smoking cessation
24 months, $1,353,242

Professor Julian Crane
Zonnic (oral nicotine) and nicotine patch in smoking cessation
24 months, $1,116,305

Dr Elspeth Gold (Department of Anatomy & Structural Biology, Otago School of Medical Sciences)
Role of activin C in prostate disease
36 months, $953,695

Associate Professor David Grattan (Department of Anatomy & Structural Biology, Otago School of Medical Sciences)
Mechanisms of hyperprolactinemia-induced infertility
36 months, $949,105

Professor Janet Hoek (Department of Marketing, School of Business)
Evaluating branding and plain packaging: Implications for tobacco control
36 months, $740,727

Dr Beverley Lawton (Primary Health Care and General Practice, University of Otago, Wellington)
Wahine hauora : reducing barriers to care for pregnant mums and their whanau
48 months, $1,179,945

Professor Ian Morison (Pathology, Dunedin School of Medicine)
The epigenome of myelodysplastic syndrome
36 months, $1,326,265

Professor David Murdoch (Pathology, University of Otago, Christchurch)
Effect of vitamin D supplementation on upper respiratory infections in adults
30 months, $1,719,632

Dr Chris Pemberton (Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch)
Sending A Signal? Ghrelin Peptides in Acute Cardiac Ischemia
36 months, $643,363

Dr Tim Prickett (Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch)
Studies on the cardio-protective effects of CNP agonists
24 months, $646,169

Associate Professor Miriam Rademaker (Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch)
Implantable devices: Improved monitoring of heart failure and tachyarrhythmia
36 months, $589,775

Dr Kate Scott (Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington)
Double disability: mental disorders and comorbid physical conditions
24 months, $154,576

Dr Louise Signal (Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington)
Is Junk Food Promoted through Sport?
36 months, $585,070

Dr Rachael Taylor (Medical and Surgical Sciences, Dunedin School of Medicine)
Screening, feedback and treatment in overweight 4-8 year old children
36 months, $1,307,272

Dr Rachael Taylor
Improving school playgrounds to enhance physical activity in children
36 months, $799,244

Dr Kristin Wickens (Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington)
Six year follow-up of the effects of probiotics on development of allergic disease
24 months, $986,784

HRC Emerging Researcher First Grant

Dr Roslyn Kemp (Microbiology, Otago School of Medical Sciences)
T cell mediated regulation of colorectal cancer immune responses
36 months, $133,413

Dr Nicola Scott (Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch)
Metabolic Syndrome: From Mice to Men
36 months, $147,220

Dr Shieak Tzeng (Surgery & Anaesthesia, University of Otago, Wellington)
Autonomic modulation of pulmonary gas exchange efficiency
24 months, $145,854

HRC Feasibility Study Project

Dr Rebbecca Lilley (Preventive and Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine)
Feasibility of a national study of worker's exposure to health and safety risks
12 months, $65,966


A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

Electronic addresses (including email accounts, instant messaging services, or telephone accounts) published on this page are for the sole purpose of contact with the individuals concerned, in their capacity as officers, employees or students of the University of Otago, or their respective organisation. Publication of any such electronic address is not to be taken as consent to receive unsolicited commercial electronic messages by the address holder.