What is research?

Research is investigation aimed at discovering, interpreting and revising human knowledge. Scientific research makes practical applications possible. Research can be funded by government, universities, companies, charitable organisations and by private groups. New Zealand has many scientists involved in research related to aspects of UV.

Some research at NIWA

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) is one of nine Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) set up in 1992 as New Zealand Government-owned businesses with a scientific purpose. Each CRI is based around a productive sector of the economy (such as agriculture) or a grouping of natural resources (such as water and air). NIWA is New Zealand's leading provider of environmental research. NIWA has around 650 staff at 15 sites around New Zealand and has been carrying out research for more than 15 years. One of their sites is at Lauder in Central Otago. It is here that Richard McKenzie and Greg Bodeker are researching many areas related to UV.

Research with Forest Herbs Research

Forest Herbs Research Ltd is an independent company growing plants organically at their farm, called Kaituna, near Nelson. Forest Herbs believe there is more to business than just making money. Funds generated from their commercial activities are also used to research new medicinal plants from New Zealand and to carry out similar research in developing countries on a non-profit basis.

One of their aid partnerships, begun in 2003, involves working with hill tribes in the remote Sa Pa region of North Vietnam to save rare plants and help these remote villagers. The aid project has unexpectedly identified a traditional Vietnamese medicinal herb whose tuber may be a potential treatment for melanoma. This exciting research is being headed by researchers at the University of Otago’s Wellington School of Medicine. This research could be life-changing for the people of Sa Pa. In the meantime, Forest Herbs Research are starting to sell unique essential oils from native Vietnamese medicinal plants being grown, harvested and processed by the hill tribe people.

Some research at the University of Auckland

The Maurice Wilkins Centre of Research Excellence in Biomedicine and Biotechnology, at the University of Auckland, has brought together eight major research groups from different areas of the University. It is one of New Zealand’s seven centres of research excellence set up by the Government as an initiative to establish research facilities that bring together New Zealand's ‘best and brightest’ to foster, promote and advance knowledge. The Maurice Wilkins Centre brings together over 200 researchers working on world-leading drug discovery and development. One of its researchers, Associate Professor Rod Dunbar, is researching and developing a skin cancer vaccine that teaches the immune system to recognise and kill skin cancer cells. The vaccine works by preparing the immune system to fight the cancer before it spreads too far. In the first human research trial, only two out of 19 people who had the vaccine relapsed, compared to five out of seven participants who were given a placebo.

Hayley Reynolds is also carrying out her research at the University of Auckland. She is based in the School of Biological Engineering. Hayley is developing a 3D computer model to visualise the spread patterns of melanoma. This interactive tool will enable doctors to predict where a patient’s melanoma is most likely to have spread, and then target those areas in treatment.

    Published 29 July 2008