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The Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) has
today announced $53.7 million in government funding for
research into pressing health issues, including a large
trial to help New Zealanders quit vaping and a project to
improve the health and wellbeing outcomes of young Māori
released from prison and youth justice residences.

Chief Executive Professor Sunny Collings says the 44 Project
Grants supported through this funding provide exciting
opportunities to help advance our knowledge and drive
meaningful change in the health system.

“We are
fortunate to have an extremely talented pool of health
researchers in Aotearoa. These project grants are an
important way for us to help develop and sustain the
country’s health research workforce so they can continue
to do the necessary mahi to improve health outcomes for New
Zealanders,” says Professor Collings.

University of
Auckland’s Associate Professor Natalie
and her team will use their grant to carry
out a large community-based clinical trial of two low-cost
interventions to help New Zealanders stop vaping. The trial
will test whether cytisine – a medicine that partially
blocks the effects of nicotine on the brain – is more
effective than a tapered reduction in nicotine, when
accompanied with text behavioural support from the New
Zealand Quitline.

Associate Professor Natalie Walker
says it is inevitable that vaping in New Zealand will
continue to increase as new tobacco control policies come
into effect that will decrease the number of tobacco
retailers and only allow reduced nicotine tobacco to be

“These policy changes in the Smokefree
Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan will make medical nicotine
replacement therapy and vapes (e-cigarettes) the only legal
nicotine available for smokers to manage withdrawal
symptoms,” says Associate Professor Walker.

time, people who vape may also wish to stop, yet little
evidence exists on the best ways to support people to do
this. Our trial plans to add to that evidence base, as
ideally being both smoke and vape free is optimal for

“The priority remains that people should
not smoke cigarettes, which kill about 5,000 New Zealanders
a year1. Our trial will also assess whether interventions
for quitting vaping have any unintended consequences on
smoking rates.”

Dr Paula Toko King
(Te Aupōuri, Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Whātua, Waikato
Tainui, Ngāti Maniapoto) and Charlizza
(Ngāti Kahungunu) from the community-based
rangatahi Māori research organisation Toi Matarua are
co-leading a Rangahau Hauroa Māori project to explore
culturally safe and effective pathways to improve the health
and wellbeing of mokopuna Māori aged 10 to 24 years
following release from youth justice residences and

Dr King says community re-entry, including
release from incarceration and the days, weeks, months and
years following, is a crucial intervention point for
addressing the health and wellbeing impacts of incarceration
on mokopuna Māori.

“Child and youth incarceration
is increasingly recognised as a determinant of health and
wellbeing across the life course, with age at first
incarceration an important predictor of outcomes. Our
project will provide the most comprehensive knowledge in
Aotearoa to date about community re-entry for mokopuna
Māori. This is an area where we need effective solutions,
not only for Māori, but also for Indigenous children and
young people around the world,” says Dr King.

One of
three Pacific-focused grants has gone to two emerging
Pacific health researchers, Dr Zaramasina
from the School of Biological Sciences,
Research Trust of Victoria University of Wellington, and
Dr Edmond Fehoko from the Department of
Human Nutrition, University of Otago. The pair will co-lead
a study to identify how assisted reproductive technologies
such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) can better serve
New Zealand’s Pacific population, who experience higher
levels of infertility than other ethnicities in New Zealand
yet are among the least likely to seek fertility

One important consideration the team will
explore is the contentious clinical use of body mass index
(BMI) to prioritise patients who seek assisted reproductive
technologies through the public health system, a practice
that disadvantages ethnicities with higher BMI such as
Pacific and Māori women. Their project aims to provide
critical data for evaluating whether the use of BMI cut-offs
for prioritising publicly funded assisted reproductive
technology treatments are fit for purpose in New

See below for the full list of 2023 Project
Grant recipients (Rangahau Hauora Māori, Pacific Health and
General categories). To read lay summaries about any of
these research projects once the embargo has lifted, go to
and filter by proposal type ‘Projects’ and year

1 Ministry of Health,

Project Grants recipients

Rangahau Hauora
Māori Project Grants

Dr Paula Toko
, University of Otago and Charlizza
, Toi Matarua (co-leaders)
Ngā Hau o
Tāwhiri – Returning our mokopuna to the winds of

36 months, $1,199,965

Dr Tess
, the University of
Waerea: Māori whānau experiences of
assisted dying in Aotearoa New Zealand

36 months,

Pacific Health Project

Dr Apo Aporosa and
Associate Professor Sione Vaka, University
of Waikato (co-leaders)
The therapeutic potential of
kava in the treatment of psychological trauma

months, $997,453

Dr Zaramasina Clark,
Research Trust of Victoria University of Wellington,
Dr Edmond Fehoko, University of Otago
Can assisted reproductive technologies
better assist Pacific people in Āotearoa?

36 months,

Professor Daryl Schwenke,
University of Otago
Can loss of a ‘hunger’ hormone
increase cardiovascular disease in Pacific people?

months, $1,199,984

General Project

Professor Greg
, University of Otago
Curbing the
reproductive hormonal axis to control PCOS

36 months,

Dr Htin Lin Aung,
University of Otago
Understanding inequitable
tuberculosis transmission in Aotearoa

36 months,

Dr Ashleigh Barrett-Young,
University of Otago
Blood-based biomarkers of dementia
in a longitudinal birth cohort

36 months,

Dr Ben Beaglehole,
University of Otago
Ketamine versus ketamine plus
behavioural activation therapy for depression

months, $1,194,434

Professor Antony
and Dr Kunyu Li,
University of Otago (co-leaders)
A role for p53
isoform 133p53 in the progression of inflammatory bowel

36 months, $1,199,998

Winston Byblow
, the University of Auckland
compositional neurophysiological biomarker for predicting
stroke recovery

36 months,

Professor Rebecca
, University of Otago
central therapeutic targets in polycystic ovary

36 months,

Professor Christopher
and Dr Nicola Scott,
University of Otago (co-leaders)
PDE9: inhibition in
experimental MI and plasma levels in human heart

36 months, $1,194,867

Alan Davidson
, the University of
Development of a targeted drug therapy for
acute kidney injury

36 months,

Professor Sarah Derrett,
University of Otago
Hinapōuri ki Hīnātore:
Improving mental health outcomes and services

months, $1,199,861

Associate Professor Allan
, University of Otago
Cancer targeted
bioorthogonal prodrugs

36 months,

Dr Sarah-Jane Guild, the
University of Auckland
Improving lives of
hydrocephalus patients – first human trial of a novel

36 months, $1,199,015

Caroline Halley
, University of Otago
farm-like dust: microbial origin and protective effects on
later asthma

48 months,

Associate Professor Sarah
, the University of Auckland
Trans-Tasman Internet-delivered Prevention of (youth)

36 months, $1,437,012

Merilyn Hibma
, University of Otago
molecular triage test to reduce colposcopy referrals after
HPV testing

36 months,

Professor Philip Hill,
University of Otago
Towards tuberculosis elimination
for Māori

36 months,

Professor Julia Horsfield
and Dr Jisha Antony, University of Otago
Fighting leukaemia colonisation of the
haematopoietic niche

36 months,

Dr Carrie Innes,
University of Otago
Where are the inequities in the
journey from health to gynae cancer in Aotearoa?

months, $1,187,765

Dr Hannah Jones,
Auckland Hospitals Research and Endowment Fund, Dr
Cynthia Sharpe
, Te Whatu Ora – Te Toka Tumai
Auckland, Dr Skekeeb Mohammad and
Professor Russell Dale, University of
Sydney, Professor Anna Ralph, Menzies
School of Health Research (co-leaders)
A randomised
controlled trial of oral dexamethasone to treat Sydenham’s

60 months, $1,438,044

Professor Peter Jones
, University of
Establishment of a new molecular target for
arrhythmias and heart failure

36 months,

Professor Kurt Krause,
University of Otago
Targeting microbial energetics to
achieve a rapid cure for tuberculosis

36 months,

Professor Rita
Auckland University of
Digital technologies for stroke prevention:
a randomised controlled trial

48 months,

Dr Kate Lee, the
University of Auckland
Toward a mechanism for CREBRF
R457Q to drive diabetes protection

36 months,

Dr Julie Lim, the
University of Auckland
Disposable, not dispensable:
Reducing the incidence of cataract post vitrectomy

months, $1,139,547

Dr Sunali Mehta,
University of Otago
Relaxed quality control: How rogue
AS-NMD drives cancer evolution

36 months,

Professor Suetonia Palmer,
University of Otago
IMPEDE-PKD: Metformin to protect
kidney function in polycystic kidney disease

months, $1,439,999

Professor Julian
and Dr Fiona McBryde, the
University of Auckland (co-leaders)
A novel
intracranial baroreceptor mechanism for blood pressure

36 months, $1,199,911

Dr Rachel
, University of Otago, Professor
Francis Fizelle
, University of Otago/Te Whatu Ora
– Waitaha Canterbury/Te tai o Poutini West Coast
Targeting the tumour microenvironment to
improve outcomes in rectal cancer

36 months,

Dr Charlene Rapsey,
University of Otago
Connected: Who benefits from
online delivery of mental disorder treatment?

months, $1,439,846

Dr Euan Rodger and
Associate Professor Aniruddha Chatterjee,
University of Otago (co-leaders)
epigenetic markers for early detection of colorectal

36 months, $1,199,979

Franca Ronchese
and Dr Sotaro
, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research
Plasticity of the skin IL-13+ innate
lymphoid cell niche

36 months,

Professor Nicole Roy,
University of Otago
Effect of an Aotearoa New Zealand
diet for metabolic health on the gut microbiome

months, $1,174,971

Associate Professor Gisela
, University of Otago
rehabilitation for people with persistent shoulder

36 months, $1,187,250

Professor Lisa Te Morenga
, Massey
Bringing manaakitanga to waitlists with
tailored Smart Start letters

36 months,

Associate Professor Natalie
, the University of Auckland
The New
Zealand Quit Vaping Trial

36 months,

Associate Professor Christopher
, Massey University
modelling and evaluating cannabis policy reform

months, $1,187,932

Dr Esther Willing,
University of Otago
Protecting hapū māmā and pēpi
from vaccine preventable diseases

36 months,

Professor John Windsor,
the University of Auckland
Protecting the lungs of the
critical illness patient

36 months,

Professor Paul Young,
Medical Research Institute of New Zealand
Low OxyGen
Intervention for Cardiac Arrest Injury Limitation (LOGICAL)

48 months,

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