Wellington-based medical researchers have received $29,945 in Research For Life’s second funding round for 2019. Three researchers received a total of $20,272 to undertake innovative medical research and six travel grants totalling $9,673 were approved to assist local researchers meet the cost of presenting their research findings at international conferences.
Research For Life funds innovative quality research undertaken by researchers in the early stages of their careers who, through their work, will advance the quality of healthcare in the Wellington region and beyond.
The successful applicants for research grants were:
Tutangi Amataiti received a $4,107 Research For Life grant to undertake research to improve health outcomes of women with Gestational Diabetes (GDM), or diabetes in pregnancy, through a novel dietary intervention to modify carbohydrate intake to reduce excess weight gain in pregnancy. The prevalence of GDM in New Zealand is increasing at a rate of 8-9% per year and is higher among Māori and Pacific ethnic groups. In addition, GDM increases the risk of complications for the mother and baby. These complications are exacerbated by excess weight gain during pregnancy. GDM can also increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes for the mother and the offspring later in life.
Tutangi’s research is exploring the adherence and micronutrient intake of women in GDM following a modified carbohydrate diet. Tutangi Amataiti is a Masters of Health Science candidate at the University of Otago, Wellington and a Registered Dietitian at Capital & Coast District Health Board.
Professor Antony Braithwaite received a Research for Life grant of $11,000 to research prostate cancer. Over 3000 New Zealand men are diagnosed with prostate cancer annually and although prostate cancer is curable if diagnosed early, there are currently few effective treatment options for patients with advanced disease.
Professor Braithwaite’s research is aimed at understanding how the immune system is recruited by prostate cancer cells to promote disease progression. Professor Antony Braithwaite is a Visiting Scientist at the Malaghan Institute for Medical Research and a Professor at the University of Otago. This is a collaboration between the institutes.
Dr Donia Macartney-Coxson and Dr Max Berry have received a Research for Life grant of $5,165 to undertake research to help understand why individuals who are born as preterm babies have an increased risk of diseases like type-two diabetes in later life.
Their research is specifically looking at the liver which is very important for metabolic health. Dr Macartney-Coxson is a Science Leader at The Institute of Environmental Science and Research, and a member of the Healthier Lives, He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge. Dr Berry is Director of the Centre for Translational Physiology at the University of Otago, Wellington, and a consultant neonatologist at Capital and Coast District Health Board.
Travel Grants were awarded in this round to the following:
Anna Adcock (Ngāti Mutunga) is a PhD student and researcher in Te Tātai Hauora o Hine Centre for Women’s Health Research, Victoria University of Wellington. She received a travel grant of $2,000 to present her team’s cervical cancer prevention research findings at the 33rd International Papillomavirus Conference (IPVC) in Barcelona, March 2020.
Anna’s research interests include whānau health and wellbeing, equity, and Kaupapa Māori Research. The goal of the research presented at IPVC 2020 is to address current inequities in cervical cancer incidence and mortality for Māori women.
Lesley Gray is a senior lecturer in the Department of Primary Health Care & General Practice and a part-time PhD student with the Joint Centre for Disaster Research (Massey University). Lesley received a travel grant of $2,000 to present her research findings at the European and International Congress on Obesity in Ireland, May 2020.
Her research interests focus on health and risk communication on obesity with a special interest in the elimination of weight stigma and bias. Aotearoa New Zealand experiences high levels of obesity, with Māori and Pacific people disproportionately represented in the prevalence of very high body mass.
Dr Claire Henry, a research fellow at the Department of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Women’s Health at the University of Otago, Wellington, received a travel grant of $1,500 to present her research at the Australian and New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Annual Scientific Meeting in Melbourne this year.
Claire’s interests lie in genomics and developing a deeper understanding of women’s unmet needs to accessing early care for endometrial cancer, focusing on Māori and Pasifika women who often present with more aggressive and late-stage tumours.
Joshua Lange is a PhD student in the Cancer Immunotherapy Programme at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and has received $1,500 to attend and present his research at the biennial CD1-MR1 conference in Oxford. During his PhD, he has been studying ways to improve vaccines designed to target cancerous malignancies.
In close collaboration with leading chemists at the Ferrier Research Institute, Joshua and his team have designed mucosal vaccines that activate and take advantage of a recently spotlighted immune cell subset, mucosal associated invariant T (MAIT) cells, which was the focus of the conference.
Greta Webb, a PhD student in the Immune Cell Biology group at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, received a grant of $1,500 to present her research findings at the annual Australasian Society for Immunology meeting in December this year.
Greta’s research primarily involves the characterisation of dendritic cells, a type of immune cell responsible for kickstarting immune memory responses. Her goal is to understand how these cells behave during asthma and allergy, with the eventual goal of understanding how these diseases begin in the first place and how they may be prevented.
Jessica Yang, a summer student at the Department of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Women’s Health at the Wellington School of Medicine, received a travel grant of $1,173 to present her research findings at the Australian Society for Psychosocial Obstetrics and Gynaecology (ASPOG) annual scientific meeting in Melbourne this year.
Jessica’s research investigates the available supports and services for women who have had an early pregnancy loss or abortion. She hopes that her study will help in optimising access to these services as well as health equity for women in Aotearoa, and prompt future research in this area.
Associate Professor Rebecca Grainger, Chair of RFL’s Research Advisory Committee, said: “Research For Life congratulates the successful applicants from this funding round. The research they are undertaking is innovative, well-conceived and vital to achieving continuing improvements in health outcomes in the community.”
The closing date for the next round of Research For Life grant applications - including travel grant applications - is Friday, 27 March 2020.