New Health Research Unit to be Based in Kaitaia

Press Release – Auckland City Council

New health research unit to be based in Kaitaia

A unique health research partnership was announced today between the Moko Foundation, a Kaitaia-based organisation led by Dr Lance O’Sullivan, and the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery, one of New Zealand’s national centres of research excellence. The partnership will establish a jointly managed research unit in Kaitaia to be called Waharoa ki te Toi (The Gateway).

The Moko Foundation will provide a local base and will provide access to a range of innovative approaches to health monitoring and community links, while the Maurice Wilkins Centre will bring access to top clinical and health researchers from across New Zealand.
Delivering healthcare where it’s most needed.

The overall aim of Waharoa ki te Toi is to tackle some of the country’s most pressing health issues such as obesity, type-2 diabetes and rheumatic fever.

Dr Lance O’Sullivan, chair of the Moko Foundation, says: “This partnership is a different way to do health research and fits well with the Moko Foundation’s vision of connecting people with opportunities for a better Aotearoa New Zealand, by building meaningful and lasting partnerships through whakawhanaunga tanaga-based approaches.”

The involvement of the Maurice Wilkins Centre, a centre of research excellence (CoRE) hosted by the University of Auckland, means the partnership can benefit from access to many of New Zealand’s best scientists and clinical researchers.

“It will allow us to target our research to an area where some of the greatest health issues lie,” says Professor Peter Shepherd, deputy director of the Maurice Wilkins Centre, who will co-lead the new research unit with Dr O’Sullivan, and is originally from Kaitaia himself.

“Usually, researchers might go to rural areas to get samples from patients and return to the city to analyse the information. However, Waharoa ki te Toi aims to deliver a permanent research presence in Kaitaia that will develop research questions relevant to the needs of those in the local community,” Professor Shepherd says.
The benefits of CoREs to New Zealand.

Since being established in 2002, New Zealand’s CoREs such as the Maurice Wilkins Centre have built a strong legacy with respect to their research activities and collaborations. As truly national organisations, they bring together scientists from different universities, Crown Research Institutes and other entities, combining their efforts to produce research outcomes of enormous value to New Zealand’s society and economy.

The CoRE model is designed to build synergies between researchers across institutions and break down barriers.

As Professor Shepherd explains: “CoREs have allowed us to do things we couldn’t have done as individual researchers on our own. As a CoRE, we’re greater than the sum of the parts, and I see that as the number one value to New Zealand.”

In addition to building synergies and overcoming barriers such as geographical location, Professor Shepherd also believes that CoREs have the potential to “change paradigms” in terms of how research is organised in the country.

“It’s about getting relevant groups together and finding out each other’s capabilities, how we can work better with each other, what problems we can solve together, and then getting out there and doing it.”

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