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Health Research Council funding for Victoria University researchers

NEWS RELEASE; Victoria University of Wellinton, 15 April 2016

Victoria University of Wellington researchers have been awarded $300,000 in funding from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) for projects that will aid chronic pain suffers and the disabled.

Dr Bronwyn Kivell from Victoria’s School of Biological Sciences and Bruno Marques from the School of Architecture are the recipients of Explorer Grants in the HRC’s 2016 funding round, each worth $150,000 over two years.

Explorer Grants are awarded for research that advances ideas considered to be transformative, innovative, exploratory or unconventional, and have potential for major impact.

Dr Kivell, a researcher in physiology and neurobiology, will use her grant to develop new, improved painkillers that don’t cause addiction or become less effective over time.

“Chronic pain affects one in six New Zealanders, robbing them of their quality of life. It is poorly treated with current medications, which become ineffective with long-term use and have high abuse potential,” says Dr Kivell.

“Our project is focused on a novel chemical called Salvinorin A. With considerable therapeutic benefits over traditional morphine-like compounds, Salvinorin A painkillers promise to transform the treatment of chronic pain, while the potential social and economic benefits of developing such a therapy are enormous.”

Dr Kivell is working with medicinal chemist Professor Thomas Prisinzano from the University of Kansas.

Landscape architecture researcher Bruno Marques will work alongside Jacqueline McIntosh, a senior lecturer in Victoria’s School of Architecture, looking at the design of open space to aid disabled people and their rehabilitation.

“New Zealand’s disabled population is projected to grow at a disproportionate rate over the next few decades, and we need to prepare for types of disability which are more common with ageing, like mobility disabilities,” says Mr Marques.

“Our research seeks to develop design parameters for a series of walking paths that measure and track the progress and regress of the physically disabled. We hope to create safe, functional, therapeutic outdoor spaces for people with disability, which they could use in local parks for free.”

Improving health and wellbeing in our communities is one of Victoria’s areas of academic distinctiveness, says Victoria’s Vice-Provost (Research) Professor Kate McGrath.

“The Explorer Grants are a critical way of allowing researchers to develop new avenues of research that have the potential to change people's lives.

“Victoria researchers are committed to ensuring their work will deliver impact to enhancing patient health and wellbeing”.

Nine Explorer Grants were awarded in 2016, worth a combined total of $1.35 million.

For more information contact Samantha Fisher on 04-463 5105 or

Issued by Victoria University of Wellington Communications & Marketing. Samantha Fisher, Communications Adviser.

Health Research Council funding for Victoria University researchers

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