NZ Research Sector Awarded $53.7 Million To Tackle A Range Of Health Issues

Published: Thu 29 Jun 2023 03:55 PM
The Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) has today announced $53.7 million in government funding for research into pressing health issues, including a large trial to help New Zealanders quit vaping and a project to improve the health and wellbeing outcomes of young Māori released from prison and youth justice residences.
HRC Chief Executive Professor Sunny Collings says the 44 Project Grants supported through this funding provide exciting opportunities to help advance our knowledge and drive meaningful change in the health system.
“We are fortunate to have an extremely talented pool of health researchers in Aotearoa. These project grants are an important way for us to help develop and sustain the country’s health research workforce so they can continue to do the necessary mahi to improve health outcomes for New Zealanders,” says Professor Collings.
University of Auckland’s Associate Professor Natalie Walker and her team will use their grant to carry out a large community-based clinical trial of two low-cost interventions to help New Zealanders stop vaping. The trial will test whether cytisine – a medicine that partially blocks the effects of nicotine on the brain – is more effective than a tapered reduction in nicotine, when accompanied with text behavioural support from the New Zealand Quitline.
Associate Professor Natalie Walker says it is inevitable that vaping in New Zealand will continue to increase as new tobacco control policies come into effect that will decrease the number of tobacco retailers and only allow reduced nicotine tobacco to be sold.
“These policy changes in the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan will make medical nicotine replacement therapy and vapes (e-cigarettes) the only legal nicotine available for smokers to manage withdrawal symptoms,” says Associate Professor Walker.
“Over time, people who vape may also wish to stop, yet little evidence exists on the best ways to support people to do this. Our trial plans to add to that evidence base, as ideally being both smoke and vape free is optimal for health.”
“The priority remains that people should not smoke cigarettes, which kill about 5,000 New Zealanders a year1. Our trial will also assess whether interventions for quitting vaping have any unintended consequences on smoking rates.”
Dr Paula Toko King (Te Aupōuri, Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua, Waikato Tainui, Ngāti Maniapoto) and Charlizza Matehe (Ngāti Kahungunu) from the community-based rangatahi Māori research organisation Toi Matarua are co-leading a Rangahau Hauroa Māori project to explore culturally safe and effective pathways to improve the health and wellbeing of mokopuna Māori aged 10 to 24 years following release from youth justice residences and prisons.
Dr King says community re-entry, including release from incarceration and the days, weeks, months and years following, is a crucial intervention point for addressing the health and wellbeing impacts of incarceration on mokopuna Māori.
“Child and youth incarceration is increasingly recognised as a determinant of health and wellbeing across the life course, with age at first incarceration an important predictor of outcomes. Our project will provide the most comprehensive knowledge in Aotearoa to date about community re-entry for mokopuna Māori. This is an area where we need effective solutions, not only for Māori, but also for Indigenous children and young people around the world,” says Dr King.
One of three Pacific-focused grants has gone to two emerging Pacific health researchers, Dr Zaramasina Clark from the School of Biological Sciences, Research Trust of Victoria University of Wellington, and Dr Edmond Fehoko from the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Otago. The pair will co-lead a study to identify how assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) can better serve New Zealand’s Pacific population, who experience higher levels of infertility than other ethnicities in New Zealand yet are among the least likely to seek fertility treatments.
One important consideration the team will explore is the contentious clinical use of body mass index (BMI) to prioritise patients who seek assisted reproductive technologies through the public health system, a practice that disadvantages ethnicities with higher BMI such as Pacific and Māori women. Their project aims to provide critical data for evaluating whether the use of BMI cut-offs for prioritising publicly funded assisted reproductive technology treatments are fit for purpose in New Zealand.
See below for the full list of 2023 Project Grant recipients (Rangahau Hauora Māori, Pacific Health and General categories). To read lay summaries about any of these research projects once the embargo has lifted, go to and filter by proposal type ‘Projects’ and year ‘2023’.
1 Ministry of Health,
2023 Project Grants recipientsRangahau Hauora Māori Project Grants
Dr Paula Toko King, University of Otago and Charlizza Matehe, Toi Matarua (co-leaders)
Ngā Hau o Tāwhiri - Returning our mokopuna to the winds of Tāwhiri
36 months, $1,199,965
Dr Tess Moeke-Maxwell, the University of Auckland
Waerea: Māori whānau experiences of assisted dying in Aotearoa New Zealand
36 months, $1,199,999Pacific Health Project Grants
Dr Apo Aporosa and Associate Professor Sione Vaka, University of Waikato (co-leaders)
The therapeutic potential of kava in the treatment of psychological trauma
36 months, $997,453
Dr Zaramasina Clark, Research Trust of Victoria University of Wellington, Dr Edmond Fehoko, University of Otago (co-leaders)
Can assisted reproductive technologies better assist Pacific people in Āotearoa?
36 months, $1,199,999
Professor Daryl Schwenke, University of Otago
Can loss of a ‘hunger’ hormone increase cardiovascular disease in Pacific people?
36 months, $1,199,984
General Project Grants
Professor Greg Anderson, University of Otago
Curbing the reproductive hormonal axis to control PCOS
36 months, $1,199,989
Dr Htin Lin Aung, University of Otago
Understanding inequitable tuberculosis transmission in Aotearoa
36 months, $1,180,728
Dr Ashleigh Barrett-Young, University of Otago
Blood-based biomarkers of dementia in a longitudinal birth cohort
36 months, $1,200,000
Dr Ben Beaglehole, University of Otago
Ketamine versus ketamine plus behavioural activation therapy for depression
36 months, $1,194,434
Professor Antony Braithwaite and Dr Kunyu Li, University of Otago (co-leaders)
A role for p53 isoform 133p53 in the progression of inflammatory bowel disease
36 months, $1,199,998
Professor Winston Byblow, the University of Auckland
A compositional neurophysiological biomarker for predicting stroke recovery
36 months, $1,199,999
Professor Rebecca Campbell, University of Otago
Identifying central therapeutic targets in polycystic ovary syndrome
36 months, $1,198,920
Professor Christopher Charles and Dr Nicola Scott, University of Otago (co-leaders)
PDE9: inhibition in experimental MI and plasma levels in human heart disease
36 months, $1,194,867
Professor Alan Davidson, the University of Auckland
Development of a targeted drug therapy for acute kidney injury
36 months, $1,199,999
Professor Sarah Derrett, University of Otago
Hinapōuri ki Hīnātore: Improving mental health outcomes and services
30 months, $1,199,861
Associate Professor Allan Gamble, University of Otago
Cancer targeted bioorthogonal prodrugs
36 months, $1,199,997
Dr Sarah-Jane Guild, the University of Auckland
Improving lives of hydrocephalus patients - first human trial of a novel device
36 months, $1,199,015
Dr Caroline Halley, University of Otago
Urban farm-like dust: microbial origin and protective effects on later asthma
48 months, $1,196,993
Associate Professor Sarah Hetrick, the University of Auckland
TIPS: Trans-Tasman Internet-delivered Prevention of (youth) Suicide
36 months, $1,437,012
Professor Merilyn Hibma, University of Otago
A molecular triage test to reduce colposcopy referrals after HPV testing
36 months, $1,199,987
Professor Philip Hill, University of Otago
Towards tuberculosis elimination for Māori
36 months, $1,135,327
Professor Julia Horsfield and Dr Jisha Antony, University of Otago (co-leaders)
Fighting leukaemia colonisation of the haematopoietic niche
36 months, $1,198,340
Dr Carrie Innes, University of Otago
Where are the inequities in the journey from health to gynae cancer in Aotearoa?
36 months, $1,187,765
Dr Hannah Jones, Auckland Hospitals Research and Endowment Fund, Dr Cynthia Sharpe, Te Whatu Ora – Te Toka Tumai Auckland, Dr Skekeeb Mohammad and Professor Russell Dale, University of Sydney, Professor Anna Ralph, Menzies School of Health Research (co-leaders)
A randomised controlled trial of oral dexamethasone to treat Sydenham's chorea
60 months, $1,438,044
Associate Professor Peter Jones, University of Otago
Establishment of a new molecular target for arrhythmias and heart failure
36 months, $1,198,100
Professor Kurt Krause, University of Otago
Targeting microbial energetics to achieve a rapid cure for tuberculosis
36 months, $1,199,908
Professor Rita Krishnamurthi, Auckland University of Technology
Digital technologies for stroke prevention: a randomised controlled trial
48 months, $1,440,000
Dr Kate Lee, the University of Auckland
Toward a mechanism for CREBRF R457Q to drive diabetes protection
36 months, $1,199,861
Dr Julie Lim, the University of Auckland
Disposable, not dispensable: Reducing the incidence of cataract post vitrectomy
36 months, $1,139,547
Dr Sunali Mehta, University of Otago
Relaxed quality control: How rogue AS-NMD drives cancer evolution
36 months, $1,184,999
Professor Suetonia Palmer, University of Otago
IMPEDE-PKD: Metformin to protect kidney function in polycystic kidney disease
60 months, $1,439,999
Professor Julian Paton and Dr Fiona McBryde, the University of Auckland (co-leaders)
A novel intracranial baroreceptor mechanism for blood pressure control
36 months, $1,199,911
Dr Rachel Purcell, University of Otago, Professor Francis Fizelle, University of Otago/Te Whatu Ora – Waitaha Canterbury/Te tai o Poutini West Coast (co-leaders)
Targeting the tumour microenvironment to improve outcomes in rectal cancer
36 months, $1,200,000
Dr Charlene Rapsey, University of Otago
Connected: Who benefits from online delivery of mental disorder treatment?
36 months, $1,439,846
Dr Euan Rodger and Associate Professor Aniruddha Chatterjee, University of Otago (co-leaders)
Identifying epigenetic markers for early detection of colorectal cancer
36 months, $1,199,979
Professor Franca Ronchese and Dr Sotaro Ochiai, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research (co-leaders)
Plasticity of the skin IL-13+ innate lymphoid cell niche
36 months, $1,200,000
Professor Nicole Roy, University of Otago
Effect of an Aotearoa New Zealand diet for metabolic health on the gut microbiome
36 months, $1,174,971
Associate Professor Gisela Sole, University of Otago
Stepped rehabilitation for people with persistent shoulder pain
36 months, $1,187,250
Associate Professor Lisa Te Morenga, Massey University
Bringing manaakitanga to waitlists with tailored Smart Start letters
36 months, $1,198,634
Associate Professor Natalie Walker, the University of Auckland
The New Zealand Quit Vaping Trial
36 months, $1,438,524
Associate Professor Christopher Wilkins, Massey University
Translating, modelling and evaluating cannabis policy reform
36 months, $1,187,932
Dr Esther Willing, University of Otago
Protecting hapū māmā and pēpi from vaccine preventable diseases
36 months, $1,158,530
Professor John Windsor, the University of Auckland
Protecting the lungs of the critical illness patient
36 months, $1,199,915
Professor Paul Young, Medical Research Institute of New Zealand
Low OxyGen Intervention for Cardiac Arrest Injury Limitation (LOGICAL) Trial
48 months, $1,191,990

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