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Innovative Otago research gains major funding

Guy carrying books for girl

Tuesday 13 July 2010 2:05pm

University of Otago scientists have gained significant funding from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology to develop their innovative research for the benefit of New Zealand and its economy.

The three new projects focus on developing next-generation electronic materials for solar power and other technologies, new therapeutics to slow age-related mobility loss, and overcoming the drench resistance of livestock parasites.

Self-repair organic electronics

Department of Chemistry
Professor Keith Gordon and his team have gained $793,533 (GST excl.) over three years for a project to develop a unique class of organic electronic materials that can repair themselves.

The team’s initial target is to develop next-generation organic photovoltaics (OPV) for solar power.

OPV is a plastic-based technology that offers much cheaper energy generation than conventional silicon-based photovoltaics.

The practicality of OPVs is currently hampered by factors that include limited operational lifetimes due to existing materials being prone to degrading.

Working with industry partners, the team will develop a new class of self-repairing OPV materials that overcome this and other disadvantages of the technology.

Drugs for frailty

Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology
Associate Professor Ian McLennan is leading a team developing a novel treatment to slow down age-related mobility loss.

The team’s $2.38M (GST excl.) in funding over four years will be used to translate Associate Professor McLennan’s ground-breaking research into the role of a hormone, known as MIS, into clinical treatments for physical and mental conditions.

Their research is based on the hypothesis that insufficiency of the MIS hormone causes dysfunction that varies with gender and age, and the dysfunction can be reversed by MIS therapy. The team will initially work to develop a MIS-based therapy for frail older people.

Members of the team include Department of Psychological Medicine Professor Paul Glue, who has wide international experience in pharmaceutical research and development, postdoctoral fellow Dr Kirstie Morgan and Hamish Findlay of Otago Innovation Ltd.

Overcoming drench resistance

School of Dentistry
Dr Kyoko Niimi is leading a Department of Oral Sciences team that has gained $923,392 (GST excl.) over three years to tackle drench resistance in livestock parasites.

In parasitic nematodes resistance to drenches is becoming increasingly widespread. A common mechanism of resistance in these worms involves their cells pumping drench drugs out before the drugs can kill them.

With colleagues Professor Richard Cannon and Dr Brian Monk, Dr Niimi will adapt an existing yeast-based membrane protein expression system to study the nematode pumps. The system was created by the researchers to study similar pump-based drug resistance in fungi that cause human infections.

The team will then screen a library of compounds to find pump-inhibitors that could be added to drenches. They will work with New Zealand’s animal remedies industry to ensure that commercially-available products based on suitable compounds can be rapidly developed. 

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