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China-New Zealand health research centre funded

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Thursday 30 June 2016 3:22pm

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The health-related National Science Challenges (NSCs) will collaborate in a new centre to enhance linkages between New Zealand and China relating to research into non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Three NSCs will participate – Healthier Lives, Ageing Well and A Better Start. This collaboration currently encompasses 219 researchers in 26 institutions.

Healthier Lives Director Professor Jim Mann from the University of Otago will head the new centre, which is named the New Zealand-China Non-Communicable Diseases Collaboration Centre. It is expected that as the centre is established it will be joined by other New Zealand groups who are working in this area to enhance collaborations with colleagues in China.

Healthier Lives Governance Group Chair Dr Jenny McMahon welcomed the announcement of the centre as evidence of the way in which National Science Challenges are collaborating for the benefit of New Zealand. “China, with the world’s largest population, is confronting a rising burden of non-communicable diseases. The new centre will provide opportunities for researchers across New Zealand and China to learn from each other about how to combat this growing global health crisis.”

The grant of $1.25M to establish the centre has been made through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Catalyst Fund, which supports activities that initiate, develop and foster collaborations leveraging international science and innovation for New Zealand’s benefit.

As well as drawing on the existing collaborations between New Zealand and Chinese researchers and institutions, the centre’s activities will focus around six research themes relevant to researchers from both countries.

These themes are diabetes/obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, rare inherited diseases, big data, and gene-environment interactions.

Professor Parry Guilford, who will lead the centre’s cancer theme, says the contributing New Zealand researchers had identified that access to China’s large populations and big data was crucial to efforts to progress research into NCD risk, prevention and treatment in this country.

“In return, our collaborators in China will be able to access our public health and ethics expertise, and cutting-edge New Zealand science regarding causes, prevention and treatment of NCDs. This will allow them to develop cost-effective approaches for the rapidly increasing medical burden in China,” Professor Guilford says.

“The researchers will build on their strong existing collaborations in China and seek to create new ones,” Professor Guilford says.

The existing collaborations encompass four of the five top ranked research institutions in China – Peking, Fudan, Shanghai Jiao Tong and Zheijang Universities as well as Tongii Hospital and Medical College, Huazhong University, Chongqing, Shenzhen, East China Normal and Xian Jiaotong Universities, Beijing Neurological Institute and the National Science Foundation of China.

Otago is also a partner in another newly announced Catalyst Fund-supported New Zealand-China collaboration. The Massey University-led New Zealand-China Food Protection Network will enhance communication between research scientists, government organisations and industries here and in China.

The network will create a new mechanism for knowledge generation and exchange, enabling the uptake of research into effective policies that reduce hazards in the food chain and ensure a sustainable supply of safe and nutritious food. Professor Phil Bremer (Food Science) leads the University of Otago arm of the network.

For more information, contact:

Professor Parry Guilford

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