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HRC Beaven Medal for Hepatitis B virus infection researcher

24 November 2011

HRC Beaven Medal presented to chronic Hepatitis B virus infection researcher

The HRC Beaven Medal for excellence in translational research[1] has been presented to Professor Edward Gane, a Consultant Hepatologist in the Liver Unit at Auckland City Hospital. His research will investigate whether better surveillance can prevent liver cancer and death in Māori with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection.

HRC Chief Executive, Dr Robin Olds, presented Professor Gane with the Beaven Medal at the Auckland District Health Board’s Healthcare Excellence Awards on Thursday 24 November 2011. Dr Olds said he was “pleased to present the Beaven Medal to Professor Gane in recognition of his innovative research, which will make a significant contribution towards translational health research in New Zealand.”

The Beaven Medal, named after the late Professor Sir Donald Ward Beaven, KNZM, CBE (1924–2009), recognises Sir Don’s long time interest in translating research into clinical practice and is awarded annually by the HRC.

“The HRC’s Beaven Medal is a way of ensuring that Sir Don’s life and association with translational medical research is remembered,” said Dr Olds.

“Professor Gane’s research will contribute to an outcome of improved health service delivery for patients infected with hepatitis B virus,” says Dr Olds.

Professor Gane’s research will investigate what has happened to people, mainly Māori, found to be infected with HBV 27 years ago, and in particular, whether there is chronic hepatitis, severe liver scarring (cirrhosis), or liver cancer. His aim is to determine how ongoing surveillance to prevent liver disease in those with HBV can be improved.

Professor Gane’s grant depended on key collaborations between the Auckland District Health Board, Massey University and The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand. Professor Gane and co-investigator Professor Chris Cunningham (Massey University, Wellington) sit on the Foundation Board, and co-investigator Dr Chris Moyes (Bay of Plenty District Health Board) is the Foundation’s Medical Director. The investigators will be active to engage with and obtain information about their health status from over 500 people identified as carrying the virus in the original community survey (the Kawerau study) 27 years ago.

By using new molecular techniques to analyse the virus DNA from the original blood samples in 1984, this study should identify specific serum markers which can reliably predict the development of cirrhosis and liver cancer, later in life. The current Hepatitis Foundation National HBV Surveillance Programme will be modified accordingly in order to improve early detection and management of these “high-risk” individuals.

“The information gained from this study will enable physicians to predict who with HBV is at greater risk of developing liver disease, and for the Hepatitis Foundation to refine its surveillance programme for such patients,” Professor Gane says. He is confident that this will be achieved within five years.

“Professor Sir Donald Beaven had a great interest in medical education and medical research. His passion for learning will continue to be an inspiration for many health researchers in New Zealand and I hope that it will inspire many of our HRC-funded researchers to follow in Sir Don’s footsteps,” said Dr Olds.

About Professor Sir Donald Ward Beaven, KNZM, CBE

(31 August 1924 - 4 November 2009)

Professor Sir Donald Ward Beaven tragically died while fighting a fire at his bach in Little Akaroa on Banks Peninsula on Wednesday 4 November 2009.

Sir Don was an internationally respected teacher and medical researcher. He was a pioneer in many major developments in diabetes treatment and prevention, and in many initiatives in public health.

Born in Christchurch and educated at Christ’s College, Professor Beaven studied medicine at the University of Otago, and had held medical appointments and fellowships all over the world.

He was a foundation member of Diabetes Christchurch, the first society in New Zealand for people with diabetes. He commenced full-time teaching and research at the Christchurch School of Medicine in 1960, and was appointed Foundation Professor in 1971. The Beaven Lecture Theatre at the School bears his name. Professor Beaven was made a Commander of the British Empire in 1988 for “services to Medicine and the community”, and a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2005 New Year Honours for “services to persons with diabetes”. He accepted a knighthood in August 2009 after the restoration of the former honours system.

In March 2009, Professor Beaven was commemorated as one of the Canterbury Local Heroes – a set of twelve bronze busts of important local figures - and a bronze bust of him was unveiled outside the Christchurch Arts Centre.

Professor Beaven was also a pioneer of Canterbury’s wine and olive industries. A memorial service for Professor Beaven held in the Christchurch Town Hall on 19 December 2009 was attended by nearly 1,000 people.

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[1] In the field of medicine, translational research is used to turn the findings of basic research more quickly and efficiently into medical practice.

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