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UC receives almost $3 million for research funding

UC receives almost $3 million for hearing, diabetic and nanotechnology research funding

September 12, 2012

University of Canterbury (UC) has today received almost $3 million for pioneering hearing, diabetic and nanotechnology research funding projects.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment released details of the grants today.

One UC research projected funded will be a world first exploring commercial applications of bionanotechnology to add value to the NZ seafood industry by converting a low value by-product into very high value products.

The project to be headed by UC’s Dr Madhu Vasudevamurthy has been awarded $1,119,755 and will use its trade secret method for scale-up manufacture of protein nanofibres from the proteins of hoki fish eye lenses.

``This work will allow us to build on exciting preliminary data and collaborate with nanotechnology experts from Denmark to develop novel biosensor technology using proteins manufactured in NZ,’’ Dr Vasudevamurthy said.

Dr Donald Derrick will be heading another project which has been awarded $553,436 funding looking into use of smartphones, hearing aids, and mobile radios which currently rely solely on the acoustic signal.

``People with reduced hearing and people in noisy environments cannot use these devices to their full potential. Our research will look further into air puffs to the skin, or aero-tactile information, to
help understand what is being said.

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``We will research aero-tactile stimulation for different speech conditions and for individuals with different hearing levels, providing a framework for building aero-tactile stimulation devices. This research will lead to enhanced audio devices and hearing aids, creating opportunity for a medical device,’’ he said.

Benefits to New Zealand include research leading to manufacture of aero-tactile devices in New Zealand with significant export potential and also benefits for companies and people who use mobile communications and hearing aids. Despite a huge market, people with hearing impairment or who are working in noisy conditions cannot use existing audio devices to their potential.

Dr Renwick Dobson will head the other successful UC project which has been awarded $1,144,972 for diabetes research.

By 2020, one in 22 pakeha and one in six Maori and Pacific Island adults are predicted to have diabetes, in line with a worldwide epidemic. This is a major public health issue and a significant
economic burden that could be substantially reduced if those most at risk of developing diabetic complications could be identified early and treated appropriately. The research aims to benefit a range of New Zealanders.

Dr Dobson’s research seeks to develop new blood tests for advanced complications of diabetes to assist clinicians in identifying diabetic people at a high risk of developing secondary complications.

``The diabetes epidemic in New Zealand and throughout the world is projected to place an enormous drain on public health systems. Key to reducing the economic burden of
diabetes is identification of those diabetics at risk of diabetic complications in order to stage interventions before symptoms develop.’’

Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Ian Town said that success of the three successful projects followed UC winning $8 million in government science and innovation research funding last month.

``We are at the cutting edge of some amazing research work here on campus. We are connecting with industry and community providing a wide portfolio of relevant research. We are especially pleased the extensive expertise of our health researchers in being recognised,’’ he said


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