Annual Grants

Our premier round of year-long, innovative early-stage research projects.

The Council of the Otago Medical Research Foundation selects grants, from applications received each year, to support medical research in the Otago area relating to human health or the basic sciences of relevance to medicine.

Funds (normally <$40,000 and for one year only) allow innovative research projects to be undertaken.

Annual Grants awarded in 2023

ADEPT MACTODD Charitable Trust (Funder)

Cracking the secrets of senescence to reveal mechanisms of ageing and disease

Principal investigator: Dr Erin Macaulay, Department of Pathology, University of Otago.

Co-investigators: Dr Chi Lynch-Sutherland, Children’s Medical Research Institute, Sydney, NSW, Australia, Dr Xaviour Walker, Department of Medicine, University of Otago.

As we age, our cells undergo a process where they stop dividing and release harmful signals. This process is called senescence and plays a key role in ageing and age-related diseases like cancer and heart disease. With the increasing number of ageing individuals and rising prevalence of age-related conditions, understanding the mechanisms behind senescence is urgent. Our research focuses on a genetic disorder where cells avoid senescence and form tumours. By studying senescence in these cells, we aim to uncover its secrets and develop novel strategies and treatments that promote healthy ageing and alleviate the burden of age-related conditions on our healthcare system. 

Aotea Holdings Group Limited (Funder)

Breaking up free living sedentary time in the evening with regular activity breaks: A feasibility study 

Principal investigator: Dr Meredith Peddie, of Human Nutrition, University of Otago  

Prolonged periods of sitting in the evening, and sleeping for less than 7 hours a night, are both associated with an increased risk of developing several diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Our group was among the first to show, in a laboratory setting, that regularly interrupting prolonged periods of prolonged sitting with brief bouts of activity in the evening improved blood sugar uptake, and sleep duration both of which can reduce the risk of developing these diseases. To date, no study has investigated whether people would be willing to break up their sitting time in the evening as part of everyday life. Therefore, this study will explore the feasibility of interrupting sitting time in the evening with body weight resistance exercises in a real-life setting. 

Aotearoa Gaming Trust (Funder)

Investigating genomic alteration in tumour cells under the pressure of anti-tumour immune responses

Principal investigator: Dr Kunyu Li, Department of Pathology, University of Otago.

Co-investigators: Prof Antony Braithwaite and Prof Mike Eccles, Department of Pathology, University of Otago.

Despite the recent success of some cancer treatment strategies, most cancer patients develop cancer reoccurrence after the initial response to the treatments. There is evidence suggesting that these cancer cells had mutated, adapted, and resisted to the treatments in order to survive. In this research, we aim to understand how immune response might influence the mutation of cancer cells that allows them to develop resistance to subsequent killing by the immune system, using an animal model of melanoma. The findings of this research contribute to the improvement of treatment outcomes for cancer. 

OceanaGold (Funder)

A neuroendocrine role for GIP in the treatment of obesity

Principal Investigator Dr. Alexander Tups, Associate Professor, Department of Physiology, University of Otago

Co- investigator Dr. Geke Aline Boer, Research Fellow, Department of Physiology, University of Otago

The prevalence of obesity is increasing worldwide and is associated with serious health problems and mortality. An important cause of obesity is an imbalance between energy intake through food consumption and energy expenditure. Glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) is secreted from the gut when we consume food and there are indications that GIP may signal through regions of the brain to influence food consumption and metabolism. Using a genetically modified mouse model, we will determine how GIP signals in the brain to help maintain a healthy energy balance. Results of these studies will aid future development of obesity therapies.

Otago Community Trust (Funder)

Understanding the host immune landscape of bacterial skin infections

Principal investigator: Dr Daniel Pletzer, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Otago.
Co-investigators: Dr Rajesh Lamichhane & Dr Sam Taylor Wardell, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Otago.

The skin is the body’s defence barrier that protects from physical and chemical damages as well as prevents the entry of infectious agents. Damage to skin integrity can result in various skin diseases caused by bacterial microorganisms. In addition, the presence of different types of bacteria at the same time can lead to more severe infections that make effective treatment difficult. Our study will investigate small changes in host immune cells in response to individual and mixed bacterial infections to understand how the presence of one or more bacterial species alter the host immune response.

Otago Community Trust (funder)

Targeted use of combination treatments in inflammatory bowel disease

Principal investigator: Dr Nicholas Fleming, Department of Pathology, University of Otago.

Co-investigator: Prof. Michael Schultz Department of Medicine, University of Otago.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a significant and growing health burden for Aotearoa/New Zealand, which currently affects at least 20,000 Kiwis. IBD patients have a limited range of treatments available, to which they vary greatly in response. Recently, a new group of drugs has emerged that may cooperate with existing options and allow more patients to control their disease. However, this new combination treatment will add significant cost, and we need to identify those it will work best for. Here, we will test a genetic marker that we propose will serve this purpose.


Previous Annual Grant funding rounds