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Major funding for University of Auckland science research

13 September 2018

A non-invasive laser probe to detect prostate cancer and developing high-value products from seaweed are just two research projects at the University of Auckland awarded funding from this year’s Endeavour and Smart Ideas science fund allocation.

Overall, Faculty of Science research at the University has been awarded a total of $21 million for four major projects, two under the “Smart Ideas” funding category and two under the Endeavour fund. This represents an increase of $2.5 million from 2017.

“These projects have the potential to change lives, change the way we live and help us understand complex natural processes that are a threat to human life and I am delighted our researcher’s ideas and scientific excellence has been recognised in this way,” Dean of Science at the University of Auckland Professor John Hosking says.

Two projects are aimed at significantly improving health outcomes for New Zealanders including just over $13 million for type 2 diabetes research led by Professor Garth Cooper from the School of Biological Sciences.

Type 2 diabetes is one of the New Zealand’s largest and fastest-growing health issues affecting more than 200,000 New Zealanders. Professor Cooper’s work is world-leading and this research is aimed at discovery and non-clinical development of optimised disease-modifying therapy for type 2 diabetes.

Prostate cancer is the second-most common male cancer world-wide and the most-commonly diagnosed male cancer in New Zealand. Professor Cather Simpson, who leads the Photon Factory at the University of Auckland, is awarded just under $1 million under the “Smart Idea” fund to develop a prostate-detecting, hand-held device that uses laser light.

“While a prostate probe might not sound like the best idea anyone’s ever heard, turns out it could be the smartest approach to diagnosing this cancer, not only in a non-invasive way but with far more accuracy and no need for expensive biopsies,” Professor Simpson says.

Professor Kendall Clements says the just over $6 million awarded for their research shows the science funding system can work extremely well because the discovery phase was initially funded by a Marsden Grant, then a “Smart Ideas” grant supported a commercial application of the work and this latest award allows it to be completed.

“I’m thrilled that we have got to this stage because we get to address fundamental science questions that have great potential to generate significant economic benefits."



Anne Beston | Media Adviser
Communications Office

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