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Major Health Research Funding Boost

Major Health Research Funding Boost

Health research has been given a boost at the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, with the funding of two research programmes and four projects by teams of researchers and clinicians. The results of the 2003 Health Research Council funding round have resulted in $6.3 million for the next three years going to the University of Otago’s Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

The largest grant is for a group led by Professor David Fergusson from the Department of Pyschological Medicine to support research associated with three ongoing studies: the Christchurch Health and Development Study investigating the health of 1265 children born in 1977, the Canterbury Suicide Project on suicide and its prevention, and the Early Start Field Trial looking at intervention in families at risk.

The second programme grant is for Mental Health Clinical Research covering a range of studies over three years continuing investigations into psychotherapy and psychopharmacology trials on depression, bipolar and eating disorders. The studies aim to link genetics and neurobiology to an improvement in understanding of mental disorders, and how a range of variables may help to predict response to different treatments, such as antidepressants or psychotherapy. The overall aim is to improve treatments for people with mental disorders. These studies are led by Professor Peter Joyce and Dr Martin Kennedy

The third study will investigate to what extent the prescribing of antipsychotic medicine may be a factor in causing Type 2 or adult onset diabetes amongst Maori, who are more likely to be treated with anti-psychotics than non-Maori. This study is led by Ms Nicola Poa from the Department of Psychological Medicine.

The Christchurch Cardioendocrine Research Group (CCERG) also received major grants for its internationally recognised work in heart failure and heart disease. A team of researchers headed by Dr John Lainchbury will continue trials in treatment for heart failure patients according to levels of the heart hormone N-BNP. Pilot studies suggest that using this hormone as an indicator of heart failure assists with appropriate medication and reduced mortality.

The CCERG will also build on its research into heart failure through a study by Dr Mark Davis and others, which focuses on the role played by a recently discovered family of hormones, Urocortins, in regulating metabolism and circulation. This may lead to new treatments for heart failure and coronary disease, and possibly the management of obesity.

Associate Professor Philip Bagshaw, Professor Frank Frizelle, and Dr Randall Allardyce from the Department of Surgery have received a grant to complete their research comparing the effectiveness of conventional with laproscopic ( ‘keyhole’) surgery for bowel cancer. New Zealand has the world’s highest incidence of bowel cancer. This study has been running since 1998 and will finish this year covering some 600 patients in New Zealand and Australia. It will assist in finding out the most effective surgical treatment for bowel cancer.

The University of Otago researchers have gained nearly two-thirds of the total funding available for health research in the latest HRC funding round; winning 25 contracts worth $33 million from a pool of $51.42 million.

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