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Arthritis research boosted at University of Otago

13 March 2012

Arthritis research boosted at University of Otago

The University of Otago is establishing an Arthritis Research Theme to enhance support for the internationally leading work its researchers are undertaking in this area. These research efforts are seeking to improve the understanding and treatment of the rheumatic diseases that affect more than half a million New Zealanders.

The new theme formalises existing collaborations and seeks to create new ones between clinical and academic staff from a wide range of health-related disciplines across the University’s three main campuses in Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington. Its inaugural research meeting is being held in Dunedin on Thursday 15 March.

The theme aims to build on Otago’s already internationally recognised research strengths by encouraging laboratory and clinical studies into the many different forms of this condition, and to increase the profile of arthritis healthcare and arthritis research within New Zealand.

Associate Professor Lisa Stamp, a consultant rheumatologist and prominent researcher in the field, has been appointed as the Director of the theme. Associate Professor Stamp, who holds positions at Christchurch Hospital and the University of Otago, Christchurch, says the establishment of the theme is an exciting initiative.

“This gives us an excellent framework to broaden collaborations between laboratory and clinical scientists from across the University in our pursuit of basic, translational, clinical, and epidemiological research relating to a range of rheumatic diseases. It involves a ‘benchtop to bedside’ approach in which researchers can interact closely with clinicians treating patients, leading to innovative research ideas.

“The key challenges we are tackling include how to better identify people at risk of developing rheumatic diseases, understanding which patients are likely to have more severe disease and future disability, and how to tailor treatments to achieve the best outcomes for individuals,” Associate Professor Stamp says.

Gout, rheumatoid arthritis and less common conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis and scleroderma are among the diseases on which theme members are focusing.

Associate members of the theme include Arthritis New Zealand and Parliamentary Friends for Arthritis organiser Michael Woodhouse, MP, who will take part in the theme’s inaugural meeting.

Associate Professor Stamp says that is very important to build links with the end users of the research.

“Our ultimate goal is to improve outcomes for everyday New Zealanders who are living with these often extremely painful and crippling conditions,” she says.

The theme also aims to foster the development of young researchers working in both clinical and basic sciences. This emphasis is reflected in the number of presentations by PhD students that will be given at the inaugural research meeting, she says.

Theme website

Arthritis Theme steering committee:

• Associate Professor Lisa Stamp, Medicine, Christchurch
• Professor John Highton, Medicine, Dunedin
• Dr Simon Stebbings, Medicine, Dunedin
• Associate Professor William Taylor, Medicine, Wellington
• Associate Professor Andrew Harrison, Medicine, Wellington
• Professor Murray Barclay, Clinical Pharmacology, Christchurch
• Dr Paul Hessian, Physiology, Dunedin
• Dr Gareth Treharne, Psychology, Dunedin
• Associate Professor Tony Merriman, Biochemistry, Dunedin


• Professor Stephen Duffull, School of Pharmacy, Dunedin
• Dr Andrew Bahn, Physiology, Dunedin
• Dr Sarah Young, Pathology, Dunedin
• Professor Tony Kettle, Pathology, Christchurch
• Professor David Baxter, Physiotherapy, Dunedin
• Associate Professor Stephan Milosavljevic, Physiotherapy, Dunedin
• Dr Anita Nolan, Dentistry, Dunedin
• Associate Professor Lutz Beckert, Medicine, Chirstchurch
• Dan Wright, Julia Korell, PhD Students, School of Pharmacy, Dunedin
• Pip Aimer, PhD Student, Medicine, Christchurch

Associate members:

• Drs Peter Chapman and John O’Donnell, Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy, Christchurch Hospital
• Dr Jacqui Harper, Malaghan Institute, Wellington
• Michael Woodhouse, MP, Parliamentary Friends for Arthritis
• Arthritis New Zealand


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