Gates Are Opened for Otago Research

$14.6 Million Given to the University for Ageing Research

A $14.6 million grant has being given to an Otago-led government initiative, Ageing Well. Directed by the dean of Otago’s School of Physiotherapy, David Baxter, the initiative is one of the eleven research areas the government has targeted in order to improve the lives of New Zealanders.

The three key areas of focus are to prevent neurocognitive decline, to reduce physical frailty and to make sure the elderly stay connected to society through social integration. Baxter said the aim is to “harness science to sustain health and wellbeing into the later years of life … The challenge is not about making people live longer, but reducing the disability burden as you get older.”

Baxter said although the research focuses on ageing, the results will benefit more than just the elderly. “Choices made by people in their twenties may not be present immediately, but the effects live with you forever.”

While the grant is an enormous investment, Professor Baxter stressed this is public money and will help to secure noticeable results. It is a collaborative initiative, working with academic institutions across the country to provide internationally significant results.

Otago is a research-intensive university, and this means it can “attract large grants for cutting-edge research,” said Baxter. He said this in itself entices academics from around the world to come to Dunedin to conduct their own research and to teach local students. Research opportunities for students will also come out of the project, with students being able to engage in likely research spin-offs. PHD scholarships and research assistant positions are also likely to become available.

Research for the project is expected to begin in late August or early September as the management team for the project are “careful to make sure the money is best put to use.”

In the same week, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $320,000 to salmonella research at Otago. Co-ordinated by the Otago’s Centre for International Health, the research is set to provide an accurate estimation of casualties of the disease.

While the disease has been known since 1885, there is still no accurate figure on the annual deaths. Salmonella is particularly prominent in Sub-Saharan Africa, a key focus area for the foundation. The World Health Organisation says it is “one of the most common and widely distributed foodborne diseases, with tens of millions of human cases occurring worldwide every year.”

Understanding the areas in which salmonella is most prominent worldwide and gathering accurate figures of casualties are key. Without an accurate estimate of the deaths caused, it is difficult for any organisation to gain funding to assist with the disease.
This article first appeared in Issue 4, 2015.
Posted 2:32pm Sunday 15th March 2015 by Joe Higham.