The HRI in New Zealand

New Zealanders are playing a major role in the fight against cardiovascular disease.

The funds raised by the Heart Research Institute in New Zealand go directly to our scientific research, helping find solutions to New Zealand’s - and the world’s - number one killer. Simultaneously, the HRI is fostering scientific excellence here in New Zealand, developing research collaborations and scientific fellowships that support emerging New Zealand talent. 

A global research effort

Cardiovascular disease is one of the world’s most pressing health challenges and it requires a global collaborative effort to better understand its causes and complications. 

While advances in medical research continue to create the potential to increase life expectancy and quality of life, increasing rates of obesity and diabetes in the community are creating a virtual tsunami of cardiovascular disease in the years to come.

In New Zealand, 65 per cent of New Zealand adults (aged 15 or over) are overweight or obese, with that number increasing to 67 per cent in Pacific Islander people. Diabetes is now one of New Zealand’s fastest growing chronic diseases. A University of Otago study found 7 per cent of New Zealanders have diabetes and another 25.5 per cent have ‘pre-diabetes’.

The urgency of this situation is no doubt a main reason why our close collaborative partner, The University of Sydney has made the unprecedented investment of over half a billion dollars to establish a new global centre of excellence in obesity, cardiovascular and diabetes research named the Charles Perkins Centre (CPC). The Heart Research Institute proudly leads the CPC’s ‘Cardiovascular Node’. Its unique approach, extensive collaborative network and the scale of the financial commitment from its funders makes this institute unrivalled by anything, anywhere in the world.

Collaborations across the Tasman

A number of collaborations over the years have allowed great science to flourish across the Tasman. Today, a unique partnership between Associate Professor Robert Anderson at the University of Auckland and Dr David Pattison in Sydney is allowing some of the best Free Radical research in the region to take place. 

Dr David Pattison, Joint Group Leader of the Free Radical Group at the HRI, has been working with Associate Professor Anderson since 2007. This important collaboration allows Dr Pattison to regularly visit Auckland to undertake experiments at the Pulse Radiolysis Facility, a facility unique in the Oceania region and one of only a few similar facilities worldwide.

The Pulse Radiolysis Facility, run by Associate Professor Anderson, allows extremely fast reactions of free radicals (that occur over a few microseconds) to be monitored in real time; a valuable tool for understanding the wide variety of radical reactions that can occur in the body, as well as assessing the reactions of antioxidant compounds that may have therapeutic potential to combat cardiovascular disease.

Pulse radiolysis is a highly specialised technique, and the experience and intellectual input from Associate Professor Anderson is invaluable in these studies. However instrumentation such as the Pulse Radiolysis Facility in Auckland require regular maintenance, and Associate Professor Anderson relies on collaborations with researchers from other institutions such as the HRI, to provide the additional funding that he requires to maintain this world-class facility.

In addition to the experiments that are undertaken during Dr Pattison’s visits to Auckland,  Associate Prof Anderson and Dr Pattison are also in regular contact to discuss research relating to data obtained from other techniques to study free radicals. Both the groups at the University of Auckland and the Heart Research Institute use a technique called electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy to examine the chemistry of free radicals, and the exchange of knowledge and ideas is another strong area of collaboration between the groups. The Heart Research Institute is one of the few Medical Research Institutes in the Oceania region to have instrumentation to undertake this type of methodology in house.

Advancing the next generation of medical researchers

Launching in 2016, the Heart Research Institute is excited to announce the arrival of the New Zealand Fellowship Scheme, open to New Zealand’s best and brightest young researchers. 

This opportunity will allow two talented New Zealand scientists to further their careers at the Heart Research Institute in Sydney, one of only three leading cardiovascular research institutes in the Southern Hemisphere.

We already know that many Kiwi scientists - including the HRI’s Zoe Clayton and Cassidy Moeke - have to relocate to Australia in order to advance their careers. 

The New Zealand Fellowship Scheme will foster New Zealand talent, providing opportunities for scientific growth.

It follows the success of the Marcus Blackmore Fellowship, which saw two promising young scientists from Europe -  Dr. Stacy Robertson from Scotland and Dr. Carmine Gentile from Italy - welcomed to the HRI to further their scientific research at the HRI.  

The New Zealand Fellowship will provide funding for two years, with the possibility of extension, providing skills and expertise that can then be returned to benefit the New Zealand community.