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Cullen - Presentation of Achievement Awards

Friday 17 March 2006

Presentation of Achievement Awards at National Research Centre for Growth and Development

Liggins Institute, University of Auckland, 2-5 Park Ave, Grafton, Auckland

I would like to thank your Director, Professor Peter Gluckman, and the Board Chairperson, Alison Paterson, for inviting me to present these awards.

The National Research Centre for Growth and Development is a model of engaged scientific research. It exemplifies the qualities that the Government has been seeking in establishing Centres of Research Excellence.

What drives the centre and its 120 staff and students is a combination of curiosity, compassion and commercial awareness. It is driven by curiosity, in that the biology of early development and its life-long consequences for health and disease is a broad and immensely challenging field of research. The mapping of the human genome, which received so much publicity when it was achieved a few years ago, merely describes a vast continent of knowledge and confirms that scientists have really only inhabited the fringes of that continent.

The unexplored interior beckons, and it is a matter of great pride that New Zealand researchers are in the vanguard of those who are opening up new territory. There is an interesting complementarity between the research undertaken at this centre and the long-running developmental study being undertaken by the Otago School of Medicine. It seems that New Zealand is a recognised world leader in research programmes that document precisely how the pathologies of adult life have their roots in early developmental experience.

Secondly, the centre is driven by compassion, in that the focus of the centre’s research has always been therapeutic, and the outcome that is sought will always be a better understanding of how to prevent and alleviate human suffering.

The researchers at the centre have already been involved in developing new technologies and clinical practices that have been adopted worldwide in the treatment of a variety of neo-natal and childhood disorders. That proud record continues, as illustrated by the awards I am presenting today.

And finally, the centre is driven by a degree of commercial awareness. Biotechnology and health care are industries with a very bright future, as humanity comes to grips with the challenges of maintaining quality of life for growing populations within an environment that is suffering the effects of clumsy, exploitative development.

Our ambition in New Zealand is to transform our economy into one that makes its living through exporting technological innovation, as much as through exporting primary produce. Advances in human and animal biotechnology made in New Zealand create opportunities for us to develop our medical research and biotechnology industries, and thereby earn a better living in the global economy.

The commercial applications in biomedical science and in agriculture that arise from the centre’s work are important as sources of potential revenue for building an even stronger research programme and continuing to attract talented researchers. The centre has, I believe, demonstrated that research and entrepreneurialism can coexist quite happily, so long as the boundaries between them are clearly understood and respected.

Today’s awards are a vote of confidence in promising young researchers and in the future of scientific endeavour in New Zealand. Thank you.


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