Science leadership team at Ōtākou Marae

Members of the Science Leadership Team join with governance and management staff at the launch of the Healthier Lives Challenge at Ōtākou Marae on the Dunedin peninsula.

The Science Leadership Team is responsible for setting the scientific direction of the Challenge. Members include leading research scientists and clinicians from across New Zealand.





Professor Jim Mann, Healthier Lives Director

Professor Jim Mann (CNZM) 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 25 years. He is Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Human Nutrition, 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 300 peer reviewed journal articles and written and edited several textbooks and popular books, including the Essentials of Human Nutrition.

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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.

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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.

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Mr Andrew Sporle

Andrew 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.

Professor Tony Blakely is an epidemiologist at the University of Otago, Wellington. His research career includes initiating the New Zealand Census-Mortality Study in the late 1990s, a pioneering study linking the national censuses with mortality data to allow research on ethnic and socio-economic inequalities and the contribution of smoking to mortality. He has also led the parallel study, CancerTrends.

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Professor Tony Blakely

Professor Blakely directed the Health Inequalities Research Programme from 2004, which encompassed the SoFIE-Health study, a series of neighbourhoods and health research projects, and cancer survival studies. He currently directs the HRC-funded Burden of Disease Epidemiology, Equity and Cost Effectiveness programme. He has research interests in nutrition and health services. Cutting across all his research is a strong focus on epidemiological and quantitative research methodologies. He has published approximately 200 peer reviewed journal articles.

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Professor Vicky Cameron

Research Professor Vicky Cameron is Deputy Dean of the University of Otago, Christchurch, and head of Molecular Biology and Genetics within the Christchurch Heart Institute at the University of Otago. Her research interest is the interplay of genes and environment on the risk of heart disease for New Zealand families / whanau. She is Lead Investigator on several cohort studies, including The Healthy Volunteers Cohort and the Christchurch Family Heart Study and is Co-leader on the Hauora Manawa / Community Heart Study investigating cardiovascular risk factors in Māori communities.

Professor Cameron served on the Heart Foundation Scientific Advisory Board for seven years and on the Marsden Fund Council for 5 years as Convenor of the Marsden Biomedical Sciences Panel. She is an International Fellow of the American Heart Association, a past member of the University of Otago Council and was recently awarded Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to health, in the 2017 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

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Professor Catherine Day

Professor Catherine Day is interested in understanding the signalling pathways that regulate cell survival and is particularly focused on elucidating how modification of proteins can regulate their function. The goal of her research is to drive the development of new therapeutic compounds. She has had a number of research leadership roles within the University of Otago and is currently the head of the Biochemistry Department. She was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2014.

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Dr Ofa Dewes

Dr Ofa Dewes has a health science, public administration and business management background and has worked in the public, private and international sectors. She has strong personal and professional links with a number of Pacific countries and people which have influenced the direction of her mixed methods ethnic-specific research into diabetes and obesity prevention, treatment and management. As a Pacific health researcher at the University of Auckland, and Affiliate Investigator of the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery, Dr Dewes  is leading a study to understand the differences in fructose absorption among Pacific high school students. She has led the Pacific consultations on the development of the clinical guidelines for weight management in New Zealand, a randomised controlled trial on weight management for Pacific children, and implementation of the NZ weight management guidelines for children, young people, adults and older adults in Pacific church communities.

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Associate Professor Matire Harwood
Associate Professor Matire Harwood (PhD, MBChB) Ngāpuhi lives in Auckland. Her background is in primary health care and rangahau hauora Māori.  She is the Director for Tōmaiora, Māori Health Research, and Senior Lecturer at the Auckland Medical School; editor for the Māori Health Research Review; Clinical Advisor at National Hauora Coalition PHO and General Practitioner at Papakura Marae Health Clinic.

Matire is an appointed member to the Waitemata DHB and was appointed the 2017 L’Oréal UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship in recognition of her work addressing the inequities of health-related outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous people

Other recent roles include membership of the Board and Māori Health Committee at the Health Research Council, and Clinical Director at Tamaki Healthcare PHO; Deputy Chair for Te ORA (Māori Medical Practitioners Association); previous member of the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation, and Health and Disability Ethics Committees.

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Professor Jeremy Krebs
Professor Jeremy Krebs is an endocrinologist with a particular interest in obesity and diabetes. He trained in endocrinology at Wellington Hospital, New Zealand, and then undertook a doctorate with the Medical Research Council—Human Nutrition Research Unit in Cambridge England. His thesis investigated the impact of dietary factors on obesity and insulin resistance.

Jeremy returned to New Zealand in 2002 to take up a consultant endocrinology post at Wellington Hospital, where he is Clinical Leader of Endocrinology and Diabetes. He is also Professor with the University of Otago, and was previously Director of the Clinical Research Diploma at Victoria University. As well as clinical and teaching activities, Professor Krebs maintains active research interests in the area of obesity and diabetes, with a focus on nutritional aspects, bariatric surgery and diabetes service delivery.

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Dr Donia Macartney-Coxson

Dr Donia Macartney-Coxson obtained her PhD in microbial and molecular genetics from the University of Birmingham, UK. She then moved into the area of human genetics, initially with a postdoctoral position focused on non-small-cell lung cancer and then further translating her skills in to the area of obesity research. In 2003 she moved to New Zealand, to work at the Wakefield Biomedical Research Group headed by a gastro-intestinal surgeon, Richard Stubbs.

Donia and a colleague initiated the expansion of the group’s tissue bank from plasma and serum to include whole blood and samples from metabolic tissues. Her work focused on utilising the tissue bank resource to investigate gene expression changes associated with obesity. In 2006 she moved to the Institute of Environmental Science and Research and has since led an obesity type-two diabetes research project. She has a particular interest in epigenetics and a focus on increasing understanding of the pathogenesis of obesity and type-2 diabetes with a view to the identification and development of new biomarkers, prognostic indicators and/or diagnostic and therapeutic tools.

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Associate Professor Rinki Murphy

Associate Professor Rinki Murphy is a consultant diabetes physician working in Auckland and Counties Manukau District Health Boards, senior lecturer in medicine at the University of Auckland and medical advisor for Diabetes Auckland.  She has been involved in guideline development for monogenic diabetes testing and management nationally and internationally.  Associate Professor Murphy’s research spans basic molecular science, physiology, and clinical research, with membership of multiple national and international collaborations in several observational studies and clinical trials.

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Professor Cris Print

Professor Cris Print graduated in medicine, worked as a house surgeon and undertook asthma research for a year before completing a PhD on T lymphocyte integrins. He studied leukocyte and germ cell apoptosis at the Walter and Elisa Hall Institute in Melbourne, before moving to Cambridge University, where he was a fellow of St Edmund’s College, working on endothelial cell and neutrophil apoptosis.

Cris has undertaken several commercial translational research collaborations and is co-founder of Japanese biotechnology company Gene Networks International Ltd, listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. In 2005, he returned to the University of Auckland where he is using bioinformatics to better understand and use pathological information, with special focus on cancer. He is currently Director of the New Zealand Bioinformatics Institute, Chair of the New Zealand Genomics Limited Project Advisory Group, and President of The New Zealand Society for Oncology.

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