NZ expertise profiled at international DOHaD conference

November 2013

Ten key Gravida researchers, including founding Director Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, will speak at next week’s DOHaD conference in Singapore, showcasing the international regard held for our research in this area.

The 8th World Congress on the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD), 17-20 November 2013, is the DOHaD field’s key international meeting. It focuses on the role of maternal and early-life health/nutrition in the development of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity, and explores ways in which to minimise future risk.

DOHaD research has shown that the time period of conception, pregnancy and an infant’s early years has a significant influence on their life-long health. Investigation into this area of research will ultimately lead to changes in clinical practice, public health policy and initiatives that will help to reduce the national and international burden of non-communicable disease – one of the largest health issues facing the world today.

This year the conference has the theme “From Science to Policy and Action”, and speakers from Gravida (based at the Liggins Institute, the University of Auckland or the University of Otago) will be joining pre-eminent scientists and health-policy experts from the USA, UK, Australia, Europe and Asia to discuss developments in this field.

Speakers include Professor Mark Hanson, President of the International DoHAD Society and Director, Academic Unit of Human Development and Health, University of Southampton, UK. Professor Hanson has also co-authored many papers and several books with Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, including the books “Fat, Fate and Disease” (2012) and “Mismatch – why our world no longer fits our bodies” (2006), both written for non-academic audiences.

The University of Southampton is also represented by members of the Southampton Women’s Survey team, who are running the world’s largest longitudinal study of a cohort of women and their children, and from which the “Healthy Conversations” workforce training programme was developed. Gravida is currently working with the maternal and child workforce to develop an adaptation of the “Healthy Conversations” programme

The speakers are all currently actively working on research projects here in that are helping to inform clinical developments, health policy and public health programmes. They include senior Gravida members as well as several postdoctoral fellows. See the list below:

  • Gravida Board Member and Investigator, Distinguished Professor Jane Harding, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), the University of Auckland, is chairing several sessions and appearing in a “Meet the Professor” session. Jane will also speak at the pre-congress symposium "Preterm birth: prevention and consequences", on the "Long-term consequences of fetal therapies; antenatal steroids and fetal transfusions".
  • Gravida Investigator, Distinguished Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor, Office of the Prime Minister's Science Advisory Committee; Programme Director, Singapore Institute of Clinical Sciences,  (SICS), Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR), Singapore, is the Programme Committee Chair for DOHaD 2013, and will chair several sessions and speak during the Day Three Plenary session “Overview of DOHaD and Public Health”.
  • Gravida Investigator, Dr Allan Sheppard, Liggins Institute, The University of Auckland – chairing a pre-congress workshop on epigenetics, and speaking on Epigenetic Markers of Predictive Adaption in Sheep and Humans”.
  • Gravida Investigator, Jacquie Bay, Director of LENScience, Liggins Institute, the University of Auckland – speaking on “School-Science Partnerships: Agents of Inter-Generational Change through Science for Health Literacy”.
  • Gravida Investigator, Associate Professor Mark Vickers, Liggins Institute, the University of Auckland – chairing a main session on programming appetite and exercise, and speaking on “Critical Windows and Reversing Developmental Programming of Metabolic Disorders: Evidence from Small Animal Models”.
  • Gravida Investigator, Associate Professor Susan Morton, School of Population Health, the University of Auckland – chairing sessions and speaking on “Defining Vulnerability in Infancy – A Life Course and Translational Approach”.
  • Gravida Investigator, Professor Hamish Spencer, Department of Zoology, University of Otago – speaking on “Why Wait? The Optimal Waiting Time between an Environmental Cue and a Plastic Response”.
  • Gravida Postdoctoral fellow, Dr Elise Donovan, LiFEPath Group, Liggins Institute, the University of Auckland – chairing the Young Investigators Committee and delivering the plenary session of the Young Investigator's Lecture Series on "Maternal Fetal Interaction: Conflict or Détente”.
  • Gravida Postdoctoral fellow, Dr Karolina Sulek, Liggins Institute, the University of Auckland – speaking on “Metabolic Profiling Uncovers Hidden Biomarkers of Fetal Growth Retardation in Maternal Hair”.
  • Gravida Postdoctoral fellow, Dr Clare Reynolds, Developmental Programming Group, Liggins Institute, the University of Auckland – member of the DOHaD Young Investigators Committee, organising career development sessions.
  • Gravida-funded research technician, Angelica Bernal, Developmental Programming Group, Liggins Institute, the University of Auckland – speaking on “Maternal Caloric Restriction During Critical Developmental Windows Induces Offspring Ovarian Follicle Loss through Ovarian Inflammation and ER Stress”.

Also speaking is former Gravida Investigator Associate Professor Deborah Sloboda, now based in Canada but who remains a co-investigator on several Gravida projects.

Members of Gravida’s Scientific Advisory Board, which provides international, independent advice on the relevance, impact and quality of Gravida’s research projects are also speaking: Professor Matthew Gillman (USA, Harvard Medical School – speaking at a key session on “Gestational Diabetes: A Way Forward in Tackling this Emerging Public Health Challenge”); Professor Rebecca Simmons (USA); Professor John Challis (Canada); and Professor Mark Hanson (UK) – speaking at a key session on “Tackling the Rise of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM): Can We Pin Our Hopes on Lifestyle Interventions to Reduce NCD Risk in Future Generations?

Members of Gravida’s International College, which provide leadership, peer review and mentoring to Gravida researchers, are also speaking, including: Dr Richard Saffery (Australia); Professor Dr Berthold Koletzko (Germany); Dr Patrick Catalano (USA); Dr Richard Horton (UK – Lancet); Associate Professor Yap Seng Chong (Singapore); Professor Yechiel Friedlander (Israel); Professor Leslie Myatt (USA) and Professor Keith Godfrey (UK).

*Check back on Gravida’s website during and after the conference for news items as a result of the conference. The World Congress on DOHaD is held every two years and will next be held in South Africa in 2015.

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