Collaboration by NZ biomedical/health researchers is leading the world, speakers say

May 2013

The successful, collaborative model enjoyed by ’s growth and development scientists and researchers has ‘the envy of biomedical industries around the world’, the chair of ’s newest Scientific Advisory Board says.

The evolution of Gravida’s model over the past 10 years can be likened to the country’s fern frond – unfolding and expanding “ in a uniquely Kiwi way that has profound global relevance,” Professor Euan Wallace, Director of The Ritchie Centre at Monash University, Australia and visiting chair of Gravida’s international advisory group says.

“It’s been built in a way that we in Australia have been challenged to do,” Professor Wallace continued in his speech given at Parliament House last night. “It’s a framework for science that supports being a leader in this field.”

Professor Wallace’s comments wrapped up his impressions of at an event hosted by the Hon. Minister Jo Goodhew and attended by approximately 100 guests including MPs, health officials, the Families Commission, and leaders from  nutrition and agricultural groups.

Hon Minister Jo Goodhew; SAB chairman Euan Wallace; and Gravida chairwoman Alison Paterson

It concluded a three day visit by Gravida’s Scientific Advisory Board to Auckland and Wellington, where they met with Gravida’s researchers involved in major projects, reviewing their work from a global perspective and providing strategic advice on next steps. These included projects researching new treatments for pregnancy and premature birth complications; several projects identifying environmental, nutritional and genetic influences on disease and illhealth risks (such as diabetes and obesity) in pregnancy and infants; and explorative modelling work in the new field of epigenetics for both human and animals.

The Scientific Advisory Board (see list here) also met with current Gravida-funded PhD students to encourage them to continue to their work, and met with NZ Government and policy officials to discuss global scientific advancements.

Minister Goodhew, Sir Peter Gluckman and Gravida Director Phil Baker also spoke at the parliamentary event. All said that was being increasingly recognised for ‘punching above its weight’ in growth and development science and education outreach internationally.

Phil Baker speaking, with Hon Minister Jo Goodhew

Minister Goodhew said research in this field offers a real opportunity to become one of the best places in the world to live; to ensure good health and wellbeing in the future; reduce the burden of disease; and contribute to improving economic prosperity. She also noted that she was impressed to hear that Gravida scientists are directly linking with front line delivery services such as Plunket and policy makers. “We can only benefit when there is a strong evidence base on which to develop public policy,” she said.

Gravida’s international Scientific Advisory Board are now returning to their respective countries, and will continue to provide Gravida with strategic advice for the direction of its research themes, and liaise with researchers on projects.

A new round of short term projects, PhD and post-doctoral scholarships have just been approved and the board also helped to peer review applications. As progress is made in these projects we will notify news through our website.

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