Sharon Knowles

The range of Dunedin’s research capability never ceases to amaze Otago Medical Research Foundation council member Sharon Knowles, but none more so than during a pandemic.

In May 2020 the Foundation committed funding to an urgent, fast-tracked fund specifically for COVID-19 medical research by supporting three projects:

  • Assessing the cellular immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection
  • Development of a SARS-CoV-2 spike protein pseudovirus assay
  • The impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection on human neurons.

Sharon says being part of a Foundation that has both the foresight and flexibility to respond to the needs of researchers who want to help with the fight against Covid-19 is just fantastic.

“As council we approve a broad range of interesting and worthwhile projects – it is impossible to single out any one in particular as I know they all have a part to play in better understanding human health, but I am pleased we can help with these ones. It’s great to see local researchers with the level of expertise that can contribute on the global stage, and that we could react rapidly and support them in a practical and meaningful way. Every contribution counts.”

Sharon, a partner with New Zealand law firm Anderson Lloyd in Dunedin, has been an elected member of the 14-strong Foundation council since 2017.

Having regularly enjoyed the Foundation’s social functions, including Club Otago and the Night to Remember, Sharon had become more aware of just what research is undertaken in Dunedin, and the Foundation’s quiet, underpinning role in helping researchers and students in those pivotal studies.

So, when the opportunity arose, she didn’t hesitate to put her hand up to take on a governance role contributing her legal skills to the broad mix of capability on the council.

“I enjoy working with the strong breadth and depth of knowledge in the council, particularly with the scientific committee led by Professor Greg Jones, which has the important role of assessing the projects for council approval four times a year."

“Seeing what we are capable of in Dunedin and getting to know the professionals on the council that I may not have otherwise met makes it such an interesting role.”

“It’s a privilege to know we make a difference in projects that can get off the ground because we provide that initial backing. And of course, its great to support the University and the Medical School, which are so important to Dunedin.”