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Budget Funds New Mental Health Gene Research

News Release

Friday, June 16, 2000


Additional budget funding of $3 million per year* (including GST) for the Health Research Council has enabled 12 new projects to be funded, two of which will search for the genes involved in depression and bipolar disorder.

The extra projects total $4.97 million and last for up to three years. Some of the budget boost will also be used for areas such as nutrition, environmental health, determinants of health, biotechnology and occupational safety, which will be jointly funded with other purchase agencies. The Budget increase brings the total HRC allocation for new contracts to $47.33 million (excluding GST).

The mental health gene studies are together worth almost $1 million. The University of Otago group, led by Professor Robin Olds, will also find genes influenced by the drug lithium, used to treat bipolar disorder (manic depression), and examine them for variations affecting those with the condition. These researchers have already recruited more than 250 South Island families with a history of bipolar disorder.

The depression study, led by Dr Martin Kennedy at the Christchurch School of Medicine, will enrol more than 200 people who have had treatment for major depression as well as their family members.

Other studies will investigate the genetics of thyroid disease, cell death in cancer, indicators of deprivation and iron deficiency in teenagers.

Says HRC Chair Jane Holden: "The HRC is pleased that health research has been recognised in the budget as a high-performing area of the research sector. The Council also welcomes $11.8 million in grants to enable the private sector to do more research. This will benefit local biotechnology companies arising from health research into genetics, computer modelling and the development of new drugs."

The budget also included extra funding for the New Economy Research Fund and the Marsden Fund, both of which also support biomedical research.

The HRC is also releasing details of new or extended programme contracts, worth more than $11 million, whose totals have just been approved. These contracts were funded before the Budget.

* This corrects the figure used by Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen in his Budget speech yesterday.

Comment - Dr Bruce Scoggins, HRC Chief Executive, phone 09 303 5203 (w) or 09 520 4662 (h)

NEW PROJECT CONTRACTS Professor Antony Braithwaite, Dr Sara Edwards, Dr Gail Williams, Associate Professor Ian McLennan, Department of Pathology, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago The role of apoptosis in tumour supression by p53, 4 years, $883,528, 03 479 7165

Dr Penelope Hunt, Dr Tony Merriman, Department of Medicine, Christchurch School of Medicine Genetic susceptibility to autoimmune thyroid disease in New Zealand, 2 years, $76,936, phone 03 364 0554

Dr Martin Kennedy, Professor Peter Joyce, Department of Pathology, Christchurch School of Medicine Molecular genetics of depression and personality, 3 years, $520,177, 03 364 1222

Dr Alison Leversha, Associate Professor Edwin Mitchell, Dr George Aho, Mr Alistair Stewart, Department of Paediatrics, University of Auckland Case control study of risk factors for cellulitis among children, 6 months, $315,433, 09 837 8956

Professor Anthony MacKnight, Dr Charles McLaughlin, Department of Physiology, University of Otago Mechanism of formation of the aqueous humor, 3 years, $457,997, 03 479 7316

Dr Kathleen Mountjoy, Dr Philip Daniel, Research Centre for Developmental Medicine and Biology, University of Auckland Regulation of melanocortin-4 receptor gene expression, 3 years, $705,826, 09 3737599 ex 6447

Dr Alister Neill, Department of Medicine, Wellington School of Medicine The effect of nasal-continuous positive airways pressure on quality of life in patients with mild obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome, 1 year, $62,347, 04 479 2570

Professor Robin Olds, Dr Anne Walsh, Professor Peter Joyce, Dr Elisabeth Wells, Department of Pathology, University of Otago Susceptibility to bipolar affective disorder, 3 years, $464,357, 03 479 7170

Dr Anne Potts, Dr Victoria Grace, Dr Nicola Gavey, Department of Feminist Studies, University of Canterbury Sex for life: The sociocultural implications for prosexual pharmaceuticals for men and women, 3 years, $536,449, 03 364 2987 ex 7929

Mrs Clare Salmond, Dr Peter Crampton, Mr Charles Waldegrave, Dr Peter King, Ms Catherine Love, Ms Kiwi Tamasese, Department of Public Health, Wellington School of Medicine Indicators of deprivation, 3 years, $190,562, 04 385 5999 ex 6044

Dr Robert Scragg, Mr David Schaaf, Department of Community Health, University of Auckland Diet and iron deficiency in Auckland teenagers, 4 months, $41,625, 09 373 7599 ex 6336

Dr Clyde Smith, Ms Jennifer Cross, Mrs Heather Mary Baker, Mr Stephen Shewry, Professor Edward Baker, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland Combating drug resistance: Towards the structure-based design of new antibiotics, 4 years, $715,723, 09 373 7599 ex 4414

NEW PROGRAMMES (Funded before the Budget) Professor Anthony Reeve, Dr Ian Morison, Dr Parry Guilford, Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago Cancer genetics, 3 years, $341,949, 03 479 7699

Dr Franca Ronchese, Professor Graeme Le Gros, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, Wellington Regulation of immunity and immune-mediated diseases, 3 years, $412,300, 04 389 5096 x 828

EXTENDED PROGRAMMES (Funded before the Budget) Professor Edward Baker, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland Three-dimensional structure of proteins of biomedical importance, 2 years, $551,002, 09 373 7599 x 4415

Professor Richard Faull, Professor Michael Dragunow, Dr Russell Snell , Department of Anatomy, Auckland School of Medicine Neurodegenerative diseases of the brain, 3 years, $2,286,048, 09 373-7599 x 6708

Associate Professor Anne-Marie Feyer, Professor Tord Kjellstrom, Occupational & Environmental Health Research Ctre, University of Otago New Zealand Environmental and Occupational and Health Centre, 2 years, $897,011, 03 4797311

Professor Peter Gluckman, Professor Jane Harding, Associate Professor Bernard Breier, Dr Chris Williams, Research Centre for Development Medicine and Biology, Auckland School of Medicine Perinatal physiology and pathophysiology, 18 months, $2,158,741, 09 373 7521

Professor Neil Pearce, Department of Public Health, Wellington School of Medicine Studies of asthma prevalence, causes and management, 3 years, $1,447,274, 04 385 5996

Professor Mark Richards, Professor Gary Nicholls, Professor Eric Espiner, Dr Tim Yandle, Dr Vicky Cameron, Dr Chris Charles, Dr Lynley Lewis, Dr Miriam Rademaker, Department of Medicine, Christchurch School of Medicine Neurohumoral factors in circulatory disorders, 2 years, $1,536,899, 03 364 1117

Ms Margaret Southwick, Pacific Island Health Research Centre, Whitireia Community Polytechnic Pacific Island Health Research Centre, 1 year, $195,826, 07 237 3103 x 3890

Dr Colin Tukuitonga, Department of Maori and Pacific Health, Auckland School of Medicine Pacific Health Research Centre, 1 year, $305,900, 09 373 7599 x 6951

Professor Christine Winterbourn, Dr Tony Kettle, Dr Margret Vissers, Department of Pathology, Christchurch School of Medicine Free Radical Research Group, 2 years, $1,511,079, 03 364 0564

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