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Hawke’s Bay’s Business Community Supports Cancer Research

Hawke’s Bay’s Business Community Takes A Swing for Groundbreaking Cancer Research

Hawke’s Bay’s biggest annual charity golf tournament for pioneering cancer treatment specialists the Malaghan Institute, teed off in high spirits last Friday, attracting a capacity field of up to 130 golfers.

A record 26 teams of local business leaders brought their ‘A’ game for a round of healthy competition at the Hastings Golf Club, followed by a lively charity auction which raised 40 thousand dollars toward leading cancer research.

Amongst the field was visiting Malaghan Institute scientist, Hawke’s Bay raised Immunologist Joshua Lange who is the first to admit golf is not one of his stronger points.

“I can’t say that I’m as good at golf as I am at science but I’ve had a few practice swings. I can swing a club but I wouldn’t say I’m a great golfer by any stretch!”

Jokes aside, at just 24, Joshua Lange’s credentials in his field are already staggering. His team at New Zealand’s leading independent biomedical research group the Malaghan Institute has just discovered how a recently-identified immune cell can be used to marshal an immune attack against cancer cells. It’s groundbreaking work with Joshua at the coalface.

“In collaboration with the Ferrier Institute we have developed new vaccines that can activate these immune cells leading to an immune response towards proteins unique to cancer cells. Ultimately we now believe the body’s own immune system holds the key to fighting cancer. It’s very exciting.”

Growing up in Hawke’s Bay, Joshua attended St John’s College where his passion for science first evolved. Heading off to Otago to complete a Bachelor of Science majoring in Microbiology and Immunology saw the young science ‘whiz-kid’ achieve First Class Honours in Immunology. Joshua’s since been invited to finish his PhD at New Zealand’s most prestigious biomedical school.

“It was a great honour to be accepted to the Malaghan Institute, I’d always admired the work they do and several of my lecturers ‘cut their teeth’ there. It is without doubt, the best place in New Zealand for the study of the immune system and cancer therapy.”

Aside from playing golf, Joshua and fellow Malaghan colleague Dr Olivier Gasser visited to update the hundreds of Hawke’s Bay ‘Friends of the Malaghan Institute’ on their progression in cancer immunotherapy treatment.

Only recently the Institute signed a deal with Chinese researchers that will see clinical trials of another pioneering therapy (CAR-T) start here next year.

"The transfusion style treatment involves taking T-cells out of the body, ‘supercharging’ them so they recognize proteins on cancer cells, putting them back into the body, where they start reproducing and killing the cancer cells."

Veterinary identity and Board Trustee of the Malaghan Institute, David Mossman is proud to see a local ‘export’ part of the progress.

“To have a young man of Joshua’s scientific calibre making these scientific advances is a real coup for Hawke’s Bay. It’s absolutely wonderful to see, we’ve had one or two other outstanding young people from Hawke’s Bay go on to work at Malaghan and it’s proving a wonderful career path.

“Hawke’s Bay is a huge cog in the fundraising wheel. Denise Bull chairs the charity golf match for the ‘Hawke’s Bay Friends of Malaghan’ and does an exemplary job.

“Hundreds of local foundations, trusts, businesses and individuals contribute financially every year and through fundraising initiatives like this year’s 17th annual golf tournament, balls and cocktail parties, Malaghan scientists are afforded the equipment they desperately need. The science is good, we’re at a very exciting stage.”

For Joshua Lange, the motivation is simple.

“To be able to take science and find a possible cure for families affected by cancer is a unique position to be in. It’s about hope and the ground we are breaking every day in the lab is providing more and more hope, what we’re doing will change people’s lives and that’s very special.”


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