Recognition for Lactoferrin Researcher

University of Auckland scientist Professor Jill Cornish’s work on lactoferrin has been recognised with the Nancy Sirett Memorial Lecture, delivered as part of the Queenstown MedSci meetings.

The award recognises an outstanding research career in the field of endocrinology in New Zealand. With this award, Professor Cornish joins an august list of researchers including Kaye Ibbertson, Eric Espiner, Ian Reid, Ian Holdaway and Jean Flemming.

Professor Cornish leads the Skeletal Cell and Molecular Biology Research Laboratory at the University of Auckland, establishing a national centre of excellence of translational research allowing clinical questions to be addressed biologically. She is also principal investigator of the Regenerative Medicine theme in the MedTech CoRE.

Her group investigates peptides and lipids that are anabolic to bone cells, cartilage and tendon cells for which they hold international patents. The group has established numerous in vitro and in vivo models in skeletal biology and developed a keen interest in skeletal regenerative medicine.

“I’ve worked with endocrinologists in Auckland for many years, identifying novel factors for which we hold international patents as well as with orthopaedic surgeons, material, mechanical and bio-engineers, formally setting up laboratory-based orthopaedic research, and establishing pre-clinical models in bone and tendon tissue engineering,” says Professor Cornish.

Her Nancy Sirett lecture was entitled “Lactoferrin, an endogenous growth factor, immunomodulator and antimicrobial, is anabolic to bone”.

Lactoferrin is a multifunctional milk protein. Professor Cornish and her team hold intellectual property (IP) for bone growth and are currently investigating the antimicrobial properties of lactoferrin along with its bone growth capabilities.

“In June 2018, we were awarded a MedTech CoRE doctoral fellowship for an industrial medical device qualified person with the capabilities to investigate the potential ability of lactoferrin to act as an anti-biofilm agent to protect against orthopaedic implant infections,” says Professor Cornish.

“We also have new collaborative microbiology partners within the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. There’s an opportunity in this field to establish novel IP which we hope will lead to new commercialisation opportunities in orthopaedics.”

The group is also working with potential scaffolds to aid bone and tendon tissue repair locally in the body and there may be potential to apply within these scaffolds anabolic factors they have investigated to treat osteoporosis.

Regenerative medicine has the potential to greatly improve outcomes for chronic disease states and trauma and to increase quality of life and physical activity, by developing biological substitutes for the regeneration and improvement of tissue and organ function.

By Prue Scott

Jill Cornish Receiving the Nancy Sirett Memorial Award