Fellowships Awarded 

AMRF Postdoctoral Fellowships provide two years support for outstanding science or medical graduates. These awards and two prestigious named Fellowships, the Ruth Spencer and the Douglas Goodfellow Medical Research Fellowships, provide support for science or medical graduates who wish to undertake full-time medical research for a PhD or MD. ​

2021
To be awarded
2020
4 awards

$712,131

2019
2 awards

$200,306

TWIST VALIDATION STUDY ($210,576 - 2 years) 1320001

2020

Dr Marie-Claire Smith

Dept. of Medicine, The University of Auckland

Around 10,000 New Zealanders experience stroke each year, and most will have difficulty walking. Regaining the ability to walk independently can make the difference between returning home, or having to move to a rest home or nursing home. Patients and whānau/family would like to know whether they will walk independently again and how long this will take. Unfortunately clinicians' predictions are accurate only about half the time. The TWIST tool predicts both whether and when a patient will walk safely on their own again, with 90% accuracy. These predictions will enable patients, whānau and clinical teams to more confidently plan patients’ care, discharge, and short and long term living arrangements. In turn, this is expected to improve rehabilitation efficiency, and reduce the emotional and economic burden on patients and whānau as they adjust to life after stroke. This study will validate TWIST so it can be implemented in clinical care. It will also interview patients, whānau/family, and clinicians, to understand the perceived benefits and risks of giving and receiving prediction information. The results of this study will lay the groundwork for the next study that will see what happens when prediction information about walking is available in routine clinical practice.

AMRF PostDoctoral Fellowship

INTERPRETATION OF ENHANCER MUTATIONS DRIVING CANCER ONSET, PROGRESSION, AND TREATMENT ($212,408 - 2 years) 1320002

2020

Dr William Schierding

Liggins Institute, The University of Auckland

The increasing availability of large international genetic databases and inexpensive, cloud-based computation makes now an ideal time to develop a tool which can show a comprehensive picture of mutations in the context of regulatory elements, specifically 3-D genome structure. The bioinformatics approach will be fast (minutes), inexpensive to operate (only data storage costs), provide open access to mutation annotation for all clinical and genomics experts, and attribute impact to the numerous cancer variants currently classified as having “unknown significance”. The value of this approach is to improve future diagnostics with the power to understand non-coding mutations, to alleviate: 1. patient anxiety (“Is my family member hurt by these variants of unknown significance?”); 2. clinician overburden (overwhelming information without clear clinical answers); and 3. diagnostic cost (expensive expertise to diagnose individuals with unknown burden). Therefore, this project could lead to a beneficial way to screen mutations and reduce the burden of having so many unknowns.

Funded by: Douglas Goodfellow Charitable Trust

MULTI-OMICS FOR ACS ($182,948 - 2 years) 1320003

2020

Dr Nikki Earle

Dept. of Medicine, The University of Auckland

Mortality rates for cardiovascular disease in New Zealand are decreasing, meaning people are more likely to survive events such as heart attacks and be living with heart disease. The rates of subsequent events in these people are high, and there are persistent ethnic inequities with worse outcomes for Māori and Pacific peoples. In this study of over 2000 New Zealanders who have survived their first heart attack, we aim to develop new ways to identify people at highest risk of death or rehospitalisation to enable targeting of preventative interventions. This will include exploring genetic markers of risk across New Zealand’s unique mix of ethnic groups, and several other biomarkers, in addition to the known clinical, lifestyle and environmental cardiovascular risk factors. This research may lead to novel approaches to reduce recurrent events in patients with established heart disease, identify more personalised treatments, and help increase equity of outcomes.

Funded by: Douglas Goodfellow Charitable Trust

PROBING THE BIOCHEMISTRY OF SKIN WITH LASERS, LIGHT SCATTERING AND MOLECULAR IONISATION ($200,306 – 2 years) 1319001

2019

Dr Hannah Holtkamp

School of Chemical Sciences, The University of Auckland

Diagnosing different skin diseases is dependent on an instrument’s ability to identify the unique signals of each disease. Unstudied skin diseases have ill-defined biochemistry and require analytical techniques that can provide a broad biomolecular survey. Two techniques are capable of this, and they generate two different spectral fingerprints. Raman spectroscopy is non-invasive (making it ideal for diagnostics) and provides a precise ratio of biomolecular components present in tissue (e.g. lipids, proteins, etc). Mass spectrometry (MS) is invasive but identifies all individual biomolecules present by their mass-to-charge (m/z) ratio. By developing computational algorithms, the precise molecular information from mass spectrometry can be incorporated into Raman measurements with which the unique aspects of any skin disease can be more precisely identified. Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is a case study for these techniques due to its distinctiveness compared to other types of lupus. Unless one is an expert dermatologist, its classification and diagnosis are challenging. This project will contribute to a fundamental understanding of how DLE differs from other skin diseases. Furthermore, the computational methods that provide enhanced dermatological diagnostic resolution will be incorporated into the development of a Raman spectroscopy-based portable device (currently under development). Funded by: Edith C Coan Trust