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Funding decision unexpected

Media Release

14 March 2014

Funding decision unexpected

Gravida director Professor Philip Baker has expressed his surprise and disappointment at the Tertiary Education Commission’s decision not to renew Gravida’s funding for the next Centre of Excellence round.

“The decision to discontinue support was unexpected as Gravida’s performance has never been criticised; indeed it had been described as an exemplar of good practice. The external reviews of the application for renewal were assessed by the external referees as very strong, and were recognised as addressing a very important health issue facing New Zealand,” he said.

Gravida’s mission is to understand early life events that affect long-term health, wellbeing and biology so as to develop interventions to ensure a healthier and productive New Zealand. It brings together leading biological, clinical and animal scientists from around New Zealand and the world.

“Among the biggest challenges facing New Zealand are the escalating epidemic of obesity (and associated risks of diabetes, heart disease and hypertension) and the economic need to increase agricultural productivity,” he said.

Prof Baker said that these challenges have their origins, and therefore their solutions, in the earliest phases of life.

“The recent Health Select Committee report emphasised the importance of the work Gravida is doing. New Zealand is the third most obese country in the OECD, with rates of diabetes increasing exponentially. Although most public health initiatives focus on changes to the adult lifestyle, it is recognised that it is the origins of these diseases in early life that provide the best opportunity for effective interventions and preventative measures. Similarly, manipulating early life events may be the key to achieving the New Zealand Government’s target of doubling animal productivity. ”

However, Gravida’s board members, researchers and students are grateful for the funding that it has received over the past 12 years, which has facilitated world-class research that is starting to have a major impact in New Zealand and indeed the world,” Prof Baker said.

The organisation would also explore opportunities to generate other sources of revenue and was having discussions with partner organisations and stakeholders.

“Gravida’s board and members recognise that funding decisions are affected by a range of factors, and we note that the majority of existing contracts to Centres of Research Excellence have not been renewed. Nevertheless, it is vital that the investments that have built up this world class research infrastructure are not lost. To this end, two years ago, Gravida took the decision to diversify our funding streams. This now looks to have been a wise decision and Gravida has been rewarded with other government and industry contracts,” he said.

“It is of paramount importance that the critical research mission of seeking to understand how early life events impact on long term health, wellbeing and productivity – and developing interventions that benefit all New Zealanders, continues long into the future. This is a serious short term setback, but may accelerate our progress towards a secure financial model independent of funding cycles,” Prof Baker said.

Gravida is a government-funded Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE ) that connects leading biomedical, clinical and animal scientists throughout New Zealand and globally. Gravida-funded researchers focus on how conditions encountered in early life affect the health and the way an individual grows and develops.

Gravida promotes the use of this research in the clinical, public policy and education sectors to benefit the economic and social wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

Twitter: @gravidanz

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