Management and Operations

Hl Team

Management Group

Operations Team

Dr Cherie Stayner

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Claire Ashford

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Lesley Day

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Professor Jim Mann - Healthier Lives Director

Professor Jim Mann (KNZM) is a world leader in human nutrition, diabetes and obesity. He has been Professor in Human Nutrition and Medicine at the University of Otago and Consultant Physician (Endocrinology) in Dunedin Hospital for over 30 years. He was previously the Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Human Nutrition, and is the Director of the NZ-China Non-communicable Diseases Research Collaboration Centre, co-Director of the Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research and Principal Investigator for the Riddet Institute, a national Centre of Research Excellence.

Professor Mann has been involved in guideline development for numerous international and national organisations concerned with nutrition, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, several of which he has chaired or continues to chair. He has authored over 500 peer reviewed journal articles and written and edited several textbooks and popular books, including the Essentials of Human Nutrition.


Professor Parry Guilford - Deputy Director

Professor Parry Guilford is a Principal Investigator in the Cancer Genetics Laboratory, University of Otago, the Director of the Centre for Translational Cancer Research, and the Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder of Pacific Edge Ltd. He completed his MSc at Otago in 1983, and his PhD at Cambridge University in 1989.  He is a member of the MBIE Science Board, the HRC Board, and a recent recipient of the Charles Hercus Medal for biomedical research, the HRC Beaven Medal for translational health research, the University of Otago’s 2017 Distinguished Research Medal, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Professor Guilford’s research interests include the genetics of inherited and sporadic cancers, and the development of new cancer diagnostics and therapeutics.

Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu - Deputy Director

Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu leads a programme of nutrition research at the National Institute for Health Innovation, University of Auckland. She trained in Human Nutrition and Dietetics at Trinity College Dublin and worked as a Dietitian in the UK before doing a PhD in Public Health Nutrition at the University of Southampton. Her research programme evaluates effects of population dietary interventions and policies, such as food taxes / subsidies, nutrition labels, healthier food reformulation, and food marketing. Current studies use a range of innovative technologies to deliver or evaluate interventions including smartphone apps, a virtual supermarket, and automated wearable cameras.

Professor Ni Mhurchu serves on a number of national and international advisory committees including the National Heart Foundation Food & Nutrition Advisory Group, Food Standards Australia New Zealand Social Sciences & Economics Advisory Group, and the New Zealand Health Star Rating Labelling Advisory Group. She is author of more than 160 peer-reviewed journal papers and Director of the “Dietary Interventions: Evidence & Translation” (DIET) programme.

Mr Andrew Sporle - Deputy Director

Andrew Sporle is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Auckland’s Department of Statistics, and Research Manager at McDonald Sporle Ltd. He was previously a member of He Oranga Hauora Kāhui Māori and is a member of the Science Leadership Team for the Ageing Well National Science Challenge. He was the inaugural Maori health research manager at the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRCNZ) where he was involved in implementing strategies for the rapid development of Māori health research. His research interests include Indigenous statistics, social inequities, Māori responsiveness of research investment and the creation of public domain tools for accessing and applying existing data. He is a founding member of Te Mana Raraunga – The Māori Data Sovereignty Network.


Dr Cherie Stayner - Science Communicator

Cherie works part-time as Science Communicator for the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge.

Her other roles include Research Manager for the Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre in the Department of Medicine, and she is a Research and Teaching Fellow in the Department of Pathology, University of Otago.

Claire Ashford - Business Support Coordinator

Claire Ashford joined the Healthier Lives team in February 2016 and works as Business Support Coordinator for the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge. She has previously held roles in finance and in the examinations office at the University of Otago as well as administrative and managerial roles in the private sector.

Claire is based in the Department of Medicine at the University of Otago and works closely with Manager Jean Cockram and Director Professor Jim Mann. She currently works 1 day a week for the Challenge while undertaking study.

Lesley Day - Assistant to Director

Lesley Day has been personal assistant to Professor Jim Mann since 2004.

Lesley has been actively involved assisting the membership of the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge since its beginning in 2013. She provides support to Professor Mann, not only for the Challenge, but also for his national and international research and teaching commitments.

Lesley has a background in the Humanities, gaining a BA degree in Languages from the University of Otago and Diploma of Teaching (secondary) from the Christchurch Teachers’ College.

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