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Cure Kids announces funding for eight new projects

28 February 2024

Cure Kids announces funding for eight new projects

28 February 2024

$1m in Cure Kids funding to support eight research projects tackling New Zealand’s most pressing child health issues

Cure Kids, New Zealand’s largest charitable funder of child health research, has announced funding for eight new research projects that seek to improve health outcomes for tamariki.

The organisation’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee reviewed and recommended which of the 46 proposals should be funded. As a result, Cure Kids has awarded eight Grants totalling $1 million.

Frances Soutter, Chief Executive of Cure Kids, says “New Zealand researchers continue to present innovative ideas to tackle the most pressing health issues affecting the lives of Kiwi kids.”

“These newly funded projects will address some of the most important health issues facing our tamariki, and represent our research community’s high standard of innovation. We’re looking forward to seeing this research positively impact the lives of children in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world.”

“Every year we ask our researchers to think big and come up with their best and brightest ideas, and we are consistently impressed with the calibre of proposals we receive. New Zealand is fortunate to have world-class and world-leading child health researchers and Cure Kids is extremely proud to support their expertise and innovative ideas,” says Soutter.

These eight new grants include a potential new treatment for preterm babies who are exposed to low oxygen levels to prevent brain injury and impaired development, trialling a culturally-appropriate framework to improve Type 1 diabetes outcomes for Māori and Pasifika, and exploring if an existing drug could be repurposed to improve the life expectancy of boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. One project will also investigate existing studies in Batten disease to see if a potential treatment for types CLN5 and CLN6 can offer hope for treating the condition across all forms.

“Across our 53 years, $65+ million in funding and over 700 projects, most of our big breakthroughs started through this fund. We’re proud to continue to support the potential breakthroughs and we hope Kiwis can see the positive impact their donations are making,” says Soutter.

As the two largest funders of child health research in New Zealand, Cure Kids is passionate about finding ways to partner with the new Government so together we can accelerate better child health outcomes in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“There’s still a lot to be done but we are committed to supporting the most impactful research possible to make a measurable difference to the health and well-being of our tamariki,” says Soutter.

The eight research projects include:

  • Exenatide treatment for preterm brains, by Dr Simerdeep Dhillon. Babies born prematurely can experience low oxygen levels which may cause brain injury and impaired development. Dr Simerdeep Dhillon is leading a study to see if Exenatide, if given days after a period of low oxygen, can help reduce inflammation and repair the preterm brain.
  • Translational gene therapy studies in Batten disease, by Dr Nadia Mitchell. Batten disease appears between the ages of two and six and affects the nervous system. There is currently no cure, but there’s hope in gene therapies. Dr Nadia Mitchell and her team have been studying gene therapy in sheep with Batten disease types CLN5 and CLN6. If their studies can show how well the treatment is working, their findings will provide invaluable information for the development of gene therapy for all forms of Batten disease.
  • Reducing the negative health impacts of rugby, by Dr Nick Draper. To better understand concussions, Dr Nick Draper and his team are studying how players collide during the game, with a special focus on girls. This includes testing special headgear to see if it can reduce the impact of collisions and lower the risk of injury and to find ways to make playing safer.
  • A potential therapy for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), by Dr Angus Lindsay. DMD is the most prevalent muscular dystrophy, mostly affecting boys and leading to pre-teen loss of muscle and mobility, and premature death. Low levels of BH4 are found in children with DMD. Previous research suggest BH4 may improve the health of skeletal muscle. Dr Angus Lindsay’s study will explore if a treatment could be used to reduce muscle wasting and premature death in DMD.
  • Antenatal steroids (ANS) effect on infant wellbeing and lactation, by Dr Mariana Muelbert. ANS is used in situations where newborns are at an increased risk of breathing problems. To understand any potential issues for the mother or newborn, Dr Mariana Muelbert and her team will conduct three investigations – whether ANS has an impact on lactation; whether it decreases important hormones in breastmilk; and whether it affects the newborn’s self-regulation of cortisol after birth. The findings will provide guidance as to whether women who receive ANS benefit from enhanced lactation support.
  • Understanding reduced fetal movements (RFM) in late pregnancy to reduce the risk of stillbirth, by Associate Professor John Thompson. This study will monitor pregnant women close to giving birth and will look at data from women who were admitted due to RFM. This information will show how fetal movements change and if improvements are needed in the guidelines for medical care during pregnancy.
  • Improving Type 1 diabetes outcomes for Maori and Pasifika, by Associate Professor Martin de Bock. Research has shown that young Māori and Pasifika are more likely to have complications from Type 1 diabetes, compared to young New Zealand Europeans. Previous work by Dr Mercedes Burnside (Ngāti Toa) showed access to automated insulin could be an equaliser. This study will use a culturally-appropriate framework to assess the impact of an automated insulin delivery system for 12 months following Type 1 diagnosis, compared to non-Māori/Pasifika.
  • Introducing the kai of our ancestors, by Distinguished Professor Linda Smith. This project seeks to empower Māori parents to with mātauranga around kai and nutrition for the wellbeing of their whānau. The research team will work with a group of parents in the Eastern Bay of Plenty to drive inter-generational change that supports kai sovereignty, healthy relationships with kai and good health.