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Major Funding Boost for Top Clinical Research Institute

For Immediate Release Thursday June 14th

New Zealand’s leading clnical research organisation has been rewarded with a major funding extension, in recognition of its on-going excellence and achievements in the field of medical research.

The Medical Research Institute of New Zealand (MRINZ) has been granted more than $1.7 million in funding for the next three years, as result of a recent Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) review of its Independent Research Organisations. It follows on from the $6.8 million, four year HRC funding grant awarded to MRINZ back in 2014.

Professor Richard Beasley, Director of the MRINZ, welcomes the HRC’s Independent Research Organisation (IRO) funding decision. He says it recognizes and rewards the unique capability and national importance of their Wellington-based Institute.

“This funding has been crucial to the development of the MRINZ as New Zealand’s leading clinical research organization with the capability to undertake pivotal multinational, randomized, controlled trials across a range of fields of medicine”.

Professor Beasley says the on-going funding commitment provides the certainty and stability necessary to increase both the depth and breadth of the MRINZ’s research programmes, and will allow for an increase in the number of specialist staff and associated infrastructure support.

“Progress in some areas of MRINZ research has already changed clinical practice, improving outcomes for patients in New Zealand and internationally” he says. “This funding extension will enable us to further expand existing research programmes and develop new ones based on national and international networks”.
The HRC review was part of a seven year funding agreement with four New Zealand IRO’s, all of which operate outside of the Crown Research Institute and university sector. A total of $27 million was granted from 2014-2017; $17 million has now been allocated for the second (2018-2020) funding period.

Top MRINZ Research Highlights for each of the 11 main programmes for 2014-17, the period of the HRC IRO funding include:

1. Asthma: The Lancet commission on asthma, a major treatise which challenges the current management of asthma, and proposes a paradigm shift in the thinking about asthma [Pavord et al, Lancet 2017]. Together with the updated NZ Asthma Guidelines [Beasley et al, NZMJ 2016], it has the potential to change practice in NZ.
2. Cardiothoracic Surgery: The RCT showing that in cardiac surgery a more restrictive transfusion strategy is non-inferior to a more liberal strategy [Mazer et al. NEJM 2017]. When the results of this study are translated into practice, it will result in a significant decrease in blood transfusions in these patients.
3. Complementary Medicine: The RCT which showed that medical grade Kanuka honey is effective in the treatment of the skin condition rosacea [Braithwaite et al, BMJOpen 2015]. This has led to a NZ biotechnology company (HoneyLab) marketing kanuka honey for rosacea in NZ and internationally.
4. COPD: The RCT which showed that a high flow nasal cannulae device has a favourable physiological safety profile when administered to patients with COPD [McKinstry et al, Respirology 2017]. This has provided important evidence to support the use of the Fisher & Paykel Healthcare high flow nasal therapy device globally.
5. Emerging Therapeutics: The demonstration that angiotensin II is effective in the treatment of vasodilatory shock in intensive care [Khanna et al, NEJM 2017]. This therapeutic agent is the first new pharmacological agent shown to be effective in the treatment of shock in the last 50 years, and should be available for use in NZ within the next few years.
6. Infectious Disease: The largest trial of septic patients ever undertaken will have a major impact on clinical practice [Venkatesh et al. NEJM 2018]. The key message is that steroids for septic shock do not alter day 90 mortality but speed up resolution of shock, reduce ICU length of stay, decrease time until weaning of life support, and reduce transfusion requirements.
7. Influenza: The randomised placebo controlled trial which showed that paracetamol has no beneficial effect in the treatment of influenza infection [Jefferies et al, Respirology 2016]. Together with the related study in critically ill patients [Young et al, NEJM 2015], this study has challenged current practice of routinely administering paracetamol to patients with fever.
8. Intensive Care: The demonstration that saline has a similar safety profile as the more expensive buffered IV fluid in critically ill patients in ICU [Young et al, JAMA 2016]. These findings provide reassurance about the safety of IV saline which is administered to around 1 million patients in the world every day.
9. Oxygen: The TSANZ adult oxygen guidelines which provided practical evidence based recommendation for the use of acute oxygen therapy [Beasley et al, Respirology 2016]. Many recommendations made in these guidelines are based on research undertaken at the MRINZ.
10. Pleural disease: The demonstration that insertion of an indwelling pleural catheter has a favourable efficacy/safety profile compared with conventional pleurodesis for malignant pleural effusions [Thomas et al, JAMA 2017]. These findings have led to a change in practice with indwelling pleural catheter insertion now being the preferred method to treat pleural effusions secondary to lung cancer.
11. Venous thromboembolism: Identifying the VTE risk associated with prolonged seated immobility at work [Braithwaite et al, JRSM Open 2016]. This has led to the assessment of different novel devices to reduce the risk of VTE in situations in which prolonged seated immobility cannot be avoided.


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