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Otago health research gains major funding


Thursday 10 June 2010 2:57pm

University of Otago researchers have gained $33.35M in funding for 25 world-class research projects aimed at improving the health and well-being of New Zealanders.

A wide variety of innovative Otago-led research proposals — ranging from basic biomedical investigations into deadly diseases to evaluating New Zealand’s healthcare spending priorities — have gained the lion’s share of funding in the Health Research Council’s (HRC) latest annual round.

Welcoming the funding announcement, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Enterprise) Professor Harlene Hayne said she is delighted by Otago researchers’ outstanding success in the highly competitive funding round.

“This significant support from the HRC will enable our established and emerging researchers to pursue projects aimed at producing real health benefits for individuals, families and communities.”

The new funding has been gained by researchers from across the University’s campuses in Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington and involves four major multi- year programmes, two of which are new and two extensions; 14 projects; six emerging researcher grants and a feasibility study.

One of the new programmes focuses on the early detection and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, which currently afflict over 40,000 New Zealanders. The five-year programme, led by Psychology Professor Cliff Abraham, aims to develop new treatment strategies and provide an ability to identify those at risk of cognitive decline so treatments can be delivered at an early stage.

The other new five-year programme, led by Professor Tony Blakely of the University’s Department of Public Health in Wellington, will tackle questions such as: How should New Zealand spend additional health dollars? Is prevention or treatment more cost-effective? Will new interventions improve or worsen inequalities?

Two existing Otago programmes have gained three-year extensions.

In one, Department of Microbiology and Immunology Professor Andrew Mercer and colleagues will continue their world-class research on viral-human interactions. This programme integrates two core themes of combating viruses and exploiting viruses for beneficial purposes.

Another current programme, led by Dr Dorothy Begg of the Injury Prevention Research Unit, receives further support for extensive work focusing on preventing injury and reducing the subsequent disability outcomes.

Also among the Otago research supported through the latest grants are basic biomedical investigations into mechanisms involved in tumours, stroke, gout, epilepsy, preterm birth, cardiac injury and other areas.

Other projects include studies involving a close examination of the links between alcohol misuse and antisocial behaviour; older people’s dialysis outcomes; investigations into factors underlying inequalities in health outcomes for Maori; and evaluation of flax bassinets as a safer sleeping environment for babies than co- sleeping.

Professor Hayne says she is delighted that six of the 10 Emerging Researcher First Grants awarded nationally were gained by up-and-coming Otago researchers.

“The University is committed to helping its early-career researchers develop to their full potential and this level of recognition of the quality of their research proposals is very welcome,” she says.

In the overall HRC round, Otago researchers gained the largest share of the funding available and the highest number of contracts awarded.

“This latest impressive performance by Otago researchers continues the University’s strong record in gaining external research funding and reflects the ongoing strength of the University’s research culture.”

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 principal investigator is listed:

HRC Programmes: New

Professor Cliff Abraham
Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Tel (03) 479 7648
Cognitive decline during aging and Alzheimer's: Biomarkers & therapeutic targets
60 months, $4,479,233

Professor Tony Blakely
Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, Tel (04) 385 5541
Burden of Disease Epidemiology, Equity and Cost-Effectiveness Programme (BODE3)
60 months, $4,996,275

HRC Programme Extensions

Dr Dorothy Begg
Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Tel (03) 479 8509
Preventing injury and reducing subsequent disability outcomes
36 months, $4,353,633

Professor Andrew Mercer
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Otago, Tel (03) 479 7730
Human pathogenic viruses: drug targets and therapeutic potential
36 months, $4,978,146

HRC Projects

Dr Joseph Boden
Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch, Tel (03) 372 0406
Alcohol and antisocial behaviour: Findings in two birth cohorts
36 months, $868,766

Professor Antony Braithwaite
Department of Pathology, University of Otago, Tel (03) 479 7165
Can isoforms of the p53 tumour suppressor cause cancer?
36 months, $1,158,492

Dr Colin Brown
Department of Physiology, University of Otago, Tel (03) 479 7354
Kisspeptin-oxytocin regulation of pregnancy: implications for preterm delivery
36 months, $709,665

Professor Stephen Chambers
Department of Pathology, University of Otago, Christchurch, Tel (03) 364 0950
Evaluation of a novel breath test for tuberculosis
18 months, $593,993

Associate Professor Chris Charles
Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch, Tel (03) 364 0543
Sympathoinhibitory hormone Urocortin 2: Beneficial effects in cardiac injury?
36 months, $1,057,693

Dr Andrew Clarkson
Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology, University of Otago, Tel (03) 479 7326
Sonic Hedgehog Facilitates Post-Stroke Axonal Sprouting and Function Recovery
36 months, $880,407

Associate Professor Catherine Day
Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago, Tel (03) 479 7871
Uncovering how inhibitor of apoptosis proteins regulate cell survival
36 months, $991,988

Dr Ricci Harris
Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, Tel (04) 385 5924
Racism as a health determinant: implications for Māori health and inequalities
36 months, $600,032

Dr Tristram Ingham
Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington, Tel (04) 385 5541
Whiti Te Ra: Bronchiolitis Disparities among Māori and Pacific Children
36 months, $1,146,720

Dr Beverley Lawton
Department of General Practice, University of Otago, Wellington, Tel (04) 385 5995
Addressing barriers to care for young pregnant Māori women and their infants
36 months, $1,199,936

Dr Lynette Sadleir
Department of Paediatrics, University of Otago, Wellington, Tel (04) 385 5999
Defining the Genetic Determinants For Epilepsy
36 months, $1,158,831

Dr Diana Sarfati
Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington, Tel (04) 918 6042
C3 study: Effect of comorbidity on care and cancer survival inequalities
36 months, $1,171,238

Professor Barry Taylor
Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Otago, Tel (03) 474 0999
Safer Sleeping Environments: Evaluating new options for New Zealand babies
36 months, $1,199,740

Professor Robert Walker
Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Tel (09) 474 0999
Dialysis Outcomes in those Aged 65 Years and Over
36 months, $772,060

HRC Feasibility Study Projects

Dr Lisa Stamp
Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch, Tel (03) 364 0953
Effect of vitamin C on serum urate in patients with gout
12 months, $149,780

HRC Emerging Researcher First Grants

Dr Andrew Bahn
Department of Physiology, University of Otago, Tel (03) 479 7317
Translational control of urate transporters via microRNAs
36 months, $149,884

Dr Rachel Brown
Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago, Tel (03) 479 5839
Nuts for LIFE (Lipids, InFlammation, Endothelial)
24 months, $143,207

Dr Peter Nagy
Department of Pathology, University of Otago, Christchurch, Tel (03) 364 0567
Roles of hydrogen sulfide in inflammation.
18 months, $150,000

Dr Peter Saxton
Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Tel (03) 479 7201
Estimating unrecognised HIV infection in a community sample of homosexual men
12 months, $150,000

Dr Jonathan Shemmell
School of Physical Education, University of Otago, Tel (03) 479 8388
Fire together, wire together: sensory synchronisation to enhance stroke recovery
32 months, $142,917

Dr Tania Slatter
Department of Pathology, University of Otago, Tel (03) 479 7656
The role of p53 isoforms for increased cancer susceptibility
36 months, $150,000.

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