Success for the MedTech CoRE’s Flagship One

The University of Auckland held its 2018 Celebrating Research Excellence event this week. The event highlighted the vital role of ordinary New Zealanders in research and the importance of their research input in shaping our future communities.

It was a night of achievements for the MedTech CoRE’s Flagship One team members who received the University Research Excellence medals from Research, Science and Innovation Minister, the Hon. Megan Woods. Professor Merryn Tawhai, Drs Alys Clark and Haribalan Kumar were acknowledged for their work on the ‘virtual lung’, and Distinguished Professor Geoff Chase for his work as part of a team studying children with neonatal hypoglycaemia and their later development (the CHYLD study).

The ‘virtual lung’ by MedTech CoRE director Professor Tawhai and team spans cell-to-organ function and is world-leading in anatomical and physiological accuracy. It has enhanced physiological understanding of not only normal young and older lungs, but also major respiratory diseases (e.g. asthma, pulmonary hypertension) and nasal diseases (e.g. chronic sinusitis). This knowledge can significantly impact diagnosis and treatment of lung disease, especially in tailoring therapy to individual patients. The potential for human benefit resulting from the ‘virtual lung’ has been recognised with the award of the 2016 Royal Society MacDiarmid Medal.

The CHYLD Study led by Distinguished Professor Jane Harding from the Liggins Institute seeks to understand the relationship between blood glucose concentrations soon after birth and the babies’ later development. It showed for the first time that children who had neonatal hypoglycaemia were more likely to experience difficulties with skills important for good school performance, even if their low glucose levels were mild and transient. Post-hypoglycaemia glucose levels that were high and unstable were also associated with lower cognitive function. The team’s high-quality evidence to guide practice have made them the international ‘go-to’ resource in the area, and their findings have already been incorporated into Perinatal Medicine practice guidelines in the UK.

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The team with their medals. From left to right: Distinguished Professor Geoff Chase, Dr Alys Clark, Professor Merryn Tawhai and Dr Haribalan Kumar.