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Neurology and bioengineering research benefit from funding

8 August 2013

Neurology and bioengineering research benefit from funding

The Aotearoa Foundation has pledged more than $2 million support for postdoctoral research fellowships in both neurology and bioengineering at The University of Auckland.

These fellowships will be advertised soon by the University’s Centre for Brain Research (CBR) and the Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI).

The Aotearoa Foundation was founded by American philanthropist Julian Robertson who funded similar three year fellowships in 2010, valued at $1.8 million. The funding is for a renewal of $2.16 million over five years and the increased amount is a recognition that costs have increased since 2010.

The increase in funding will enable the University to provide $120,000 per annum for three years to each fellow, and will fund one new three-year fellowship at the Institute and one at the Centre - each year for three years.

“This is wonderful recognition of New Zealand science by an international philanthropist. I am delighted that it will support the development of our next generation of science leaders,” says Professor John Fraser, the Dean of the University’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

The ABI applies the mathematical and engineering sciences to biology and human physiology. It aims to improve understanding of physiological processes and the diagnosis and treatment of injury or disease.

The ABI is led by Distinguished Professor Peter Hunter FRS, who was awarded New Zealand’s top science honour, the Rutherford Medal, in 2009.

He developed the world’s first anatomically based computer model of the human heart in 1996 and has a leading role in the major international Physiome Project, which is building sophisticated computer models of all the body’s organs.

“The Aotearoa Fellowships are of huge benefit to the ABI as they allow us to attract and support some of our leading young scientists and engineers,” says Professor Hunter. “The fellowships give these talented young people three years of support to advance their own research projects and obtain their own subsequent funding through a combination of research grants, teaching appointments and commercial contracts.”

“The first group of three Aotearoa Fellows at the ABI (Drs Justin Fernandez, Jenny Kruger and Alys Clark) have all been wonderfully successful appointments and we look forward to taking on three more young scientists of equal calibre,” he says. “I am extremely grateful to Julian Robertson for the support we have received from the Aotearoa Foundation.”

The CBR is a partnership between scientists, doctors and the community, researching new treatments for neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. It is led by Distinguished Professor Richard Faull whose research spans 35 years and encompasses all major regions of the brain and spinal-cord.

“The Aotearoa Postdoctoral Fellowships have enabled us to attract quite outstanding postdoctoral fellows from New Zealand and overseas,” says Distinguished Professor Faull. “In terms of the whole ethos of the CBR, they are promoting collaborative, innovative, world class multidisciplinary research across the CBR between our leading neuroscientists in the University and clinicians in the Auckland Hospitals.”

“Because of the very high quality of our appointments and our obsession to only appoint potential world class leaders who have outstanding research track records, the Aotearoa Fellowships have developed into a very prestigious competitive postdoctoral programme,” he says. “We are delighted that Sir Julian Robertson has extended the funding for a further three CBR Aotearoa Postdoctoral Fellowships.”


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