Latest Grants


The July grants allocated include the funding of the following projects which will be carried out at the University of Auckland, Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Otago. Travel grants totaling $36,437 were also approved.  

Educational travel grants were awarded in addition to the below.  

STRIDER NZAus Childhood Outcome Study: Childhood outcomes of the STRIDER NZAus trial (a randomised controlled trial of sildenafil therapy in dismal prognosis early-onset intrauterine growth restriction in New Zealand and Australia)

$75,062 (co-funded with Auckland Medical Research Foundation)

Dr Katie Groom Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology University of Auckland July 2017

Intrauterine growth restriction is a common obstetric problem affecting up to 10 percent of all pregnancies. Growth restriction before birth poses significant risks of long-term neurological handicap and disease. No treatments are currently available with the only option being induction of premature birth which adds further disadvantage to these at-risk babies. Sildenafil is being investigated as a promising first-ever antenatal therapy for growth restriction through the New Zealand led STRIDER NZAus trial. Sildenafil is a registered medicine commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction and is thought to work by improving blood flow to the uterus. The STRIDER NZAus Childhood Outcome Study will assess how the surviving children of this trial are developing at 2-3 years of age. This will provide highly valuable information on whether sildenafil use in pregnancy improves the longer term neurological development and wellbeing of these children. 

Generously supported by the estate of Mr Daniel O’Brien. 

Designing novel nanomaterials as possible drug leads to treat severe neuropathic pain


Dr Tamsyn Hilder School of Chemical and Physical Sciences Victoria University of Wellington July 2017

Chronic pain affects approximately 20% of the adult population. Current drug treatments such as opioids are restricted by, for example, the potential for addiction. It is vital that more effective drugs are developed for the treatment of chronic pain. Toxins from venomous species such as scorpions have been shown to be promising drug leads, but converting these toxins to medicines represents a considerable challenge. This research aims to design microscopic nano-sized carbon cages called fullerenes that mimic the function of these toxins. Using computational modelling, the fullerene structure will be modified and their ability to block nerve pathways linked to severe neuropathic pain will be examined.

Chloride co-transport – a driving force for treating human cerebellar ataxias


Associate Professor Ruth Empson Department of Physiology University of Otago July 2017

When did you last take for granted your ability to enjoy a cup of coffee without spilling it everywhere? Ataxia, or loss of controlled movement, occurs when the electrical signals in a part of your brain called the cerebellum go wrong. Ataxia can affect anyone, young or old, has a variety of causes, usually gets worse and is rarely reversible. In this laboratory-based project we focus on a novel therapeutic mechanism that aims to correct these wayward electrical signals as a promising way to restore cerebellar function and effortless movement control in ataxic humans.

What is the optimal rate of cerebral rewarming after therapeutic hypothermia for neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy?


Dr Alistair Gunn Department of Physiology University of Auckland July 2017

Therapeutic cooling of the new-born infant’s brain is the first treatment that reduces the chance of brain damage following oxygen deprivation at birth. Despite the success of therapeutic cooling of the brain with an external cap (hypothermia), its neuroprotective effects are not 100% and thus many babies receive only partial benefit. Our preliminary studies indicate that the precise rate of rewarming is critical for optimal recovery of the injured brain. Using our reproducible model of reduced brain blood flow, we will assess the effects of faster or slower brain rewarming, compared to current clinical protocols, on seizures, recovery of brain wave activity and brain cell survival. This data will then be used to optimise treatment of human babies.

A novel role for the extracellular matrix sugar hyaluronan in induction of neonatal seizures following hypoxia-ischemia

$113,745 (co-funded with Auckland Medical Research Foundation)

Dr Justin Dean Department of Physiology University of Auckland July 2017

Seizures are the most widespread form of neurological emergency in new-born infants. The most common cause of seizures in the new-born is oxygen deprivation during birth. These seizures can increase the risk of developing further brain injury and potential life-long disabilities. Currently, there are no effective treatments for proper management of seizures in very young babies. Our laboratory has new evidence that loss of a sugar called hyaluronan that surrounds brain cells is important for controlling seizures in the brain. We will explore whether inhibition of hyaluronan loss with drugs could be used to reduce seizures after oxygen starvation in new-born babies.