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HRC announces $63M for research

5 June 2008

HRC announces $63M for research

New Zealand’s talented health research force has received new funding of $63M to carry out its groundbreaking work.

The Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) has today announced funding for 57 contracts for research into key health issues.

The work ranges from world-leading studies into genetic illness patterns to a hand sanitizer study that may help prevent children being off school sick.

Dr Robin Olds, Chief Executive of the HRC, said the new studies would cover key health issues across New Zealand’s population and included work to improve the health of Māori and Pacific Islanders.

He said an additional $4.5M announced in the budget had been used, in part, to support young, emerging researchers.

“We are delighted to support these projects, which will make real inroads into improving the health of this nation,” said Dr Olds.

“The standard of research proposals being supported is extremely high and the research is more targeted than ever before to areas of greatest priority.”

A team from the University of Otago, Dunedin, is celebrating after receiving $3.4M for a cutting-edge programme that uses new gene-based technologies to analyze several common disorders found in New Zealand.

The three-year study – Application of genetics to the pathogenesis of common chronic conditions – will be headed by Dr Tony Merriman.

The aim of the research is to identify how a person’s genes contribute to the development of abdominal aortic aneurysm, rheumatoid arthritis, schizophrenia, gout and inflammatory bowel disease.

Identifying such factors may aid swift diagnosis, better monitoring and improved treatment of the diseases.

First-time HRC applicant Dr Catherine Byrnes, of the University of Auckland, has received a grant of $555,895 to study antibiotic treatment of bronchiectasis (lung scarring) in Māori and Pacific Island children.

The research may help to extend the lives of children who suffer from this devastating condition.

Her work comes on the back of calls nationally for action to stop preventable lung damage to children from poorer backgrounds.

Another study led by Dr Patricia Priest, of the University of Otago, Dunedin, is investigating whether the use of hand sanitizer by primary school children can reduce sick days by countering the spread of infections.

Dr Lis Ellison-Loschmann (Te Atiawa, Ngati Raukawa), who works at the Centre for Public Health Research at Massey University, has received funding for two projects worth nearly $2M, and is part of a $2.5M team programme.

The first study aims to find out why Māori are up to five times more likely to get stomach cancer than non-Māori and the second looks at inequalities in breast cancer survival among Māori and Pacific people.

Dr Ellison-Loschmann is also a researcher with Professor Neil Pearce’s team, which has received $2.5M for a programme about work-related deaths and diseases, where her expertise will help focus on occupational exposures in Māori.

A groundbreaking project by Dr Judith Littleton, of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Auckland, will look at how frequent travel between New Zealand and the Pacific can lead to the spread of disease.

Another project will investigate issues affecting Pacific mothers-to-be in accessing maternity services. The research will be carried out by Dr Ausaga Faasalele Tanuvasa, of the Health Services Research Centre at the Victoria University of Wellington, and aims to identify attitudes and barriers towards antenatal and midwifery care.

Four existing research programmes have also received continued funding for three years to carry on with first-class health research.


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