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Otago health researchers gain Sir Charles Hercus Fellowships


Wednesday 8 December 2010 9:43am

Four up-and-coming University of Otago researchers have been awarded Sir Charles Hercus Health Research Fellowships by the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC).

The Fellowships, worth up to $500,000 over four years, will assist the researchers to complete advanced postdoctoral health research in scientific fields that have the potential to contribute to both the health and economic goals for the Government’s investment in research, science and technology.

Dr Haxby Abbott (Medical and Surgical Sciences) will investigate what kind of treatment for osteoarthritis is the most cost-effective, and what type of patient is most likely to respond best with one kind of treatment versus another, to reduce disability and cost.

Over three quarters of women diagnosed with breast cancer receive anti-oestrogen therapy.

Dr Anita Dunbier, who will return from the UK to take up her Fellowship through the Department of Biochemistry, will investigate why some women respond to therapy better than others. She will examine three genes, which are closely related to the oestrogen receptor, to determine how they affect response to treatment and genetic susceptibility to breast cancer.

Dr Anna Pilbrow (Medicine, Christchurch) will explore how family history contributes to susceptibility to heart disease. She will investigate biochemical pathways within the heart and blood vessels that are altered in people genetically predisposed to heart disease. This study will allow her research team to develop blood tests that indicate impending risk of a heart attack.

Dr Shieak Tzeng (Surgery and Anaesthesia, Wellington) will investigate how tobacco smoking, which is a major cardiovascular risk factor, alters Cerebral Autoregulation (CA), the mechanism that maintains brain blood flow within physiological ranges. CA, once impaired, increases the risk of brain haemorrhage, which is a debilitating form of cardiovascular disease and will test the hypothesis that smoking blunts CA.

The HRC also announced a number of Career Development Awards, which support health research-related awards ranging from Summer Studentships, to advanced Postdoctoral Fellowships.

The University of Otago recipients are as follows:

Clinical Research Training Fellowship

Dr Ruth Cunningham
Health outcomes for mental health service users - exploring the case of cancer
4 years, $250,000

Silke Kuehl
The suicide and serious harm risk of 'Mixed Presenters' to emergency departments
4 years, $250,000

Dr Jeffrey Ngu
Autoimmune liver diseases in NZ: population-based epidemiology, genetics and therapeutics
3 years, $250,000

Disability Research Placement Programme

Ms Elizabeth Mayland
Disability foundations: Anxiety and injury perceptions after upper limb trauma
3 years, $107,105

Ms Janet McDonald
The process and experience of family carers managing nursing procedures at home
4 years, $113,450

Māori Health Career Development Awards

PhD Scholarship in Māori Health Research

Ms Jennifer Reid
SICK TO DEATH: Māori access to quality health care in Christchurch
18 Months, $78,550

Māori Health Research Summer Studentships

Ms Abbey Corbett
Mr Brendan McIntosh

Pacific Health Research Career Development Awards:

PhD Scholarship

Miss Radilaite Delaibatiki
Knowledge, attitudes and practices of family planning for Fijian women living in Fiji and NZ
36 months, $110,510

Pacific Summer Studentships

Mr Rhys Faavae
Ms Shivanjali Lingam

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

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