Government channels almost $15m into scientific programmes, cancer research

The Malaghan Institute is responsible for one of the programmes receiving funding.
The Malaghan Institute is responsible for one of the programmes receiving funding. Photo credit: Malaghan Institute.

A nearly $15m investment into new "transformative" new scientific programmes, including for cancer treatment, has been announced by the Government.

On Thursday, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods announced $14.4m would be channeled into new scientific research programmes in an attempt to answer some of our "greatest challenges".

"These investments will help us find the answers to some of our greatest challenges – cures to deadly diseases, improving food resilience, and transitioning to a lower carbon and more productive economy," Woods said.

"This kind of research will help make New Zealand’s economy more sustainable."

New cancer treatment research has been given funding. The programme focuses on the trial, manufacture and delivery of novel cancer therapies using Chinese biotech. It will receive $4,950,454 over five years.

It has the potential to "deliver breakthrough immunotherapy treatment that uses a patient's own T-cells, modifying them to recognise and eradicate cancerous cells with a high degree of precision".

How CAR T-Cell cancer therapy works.
How CAR T-Cell cancer therapy works. Photo credit: Malaghan Institute.

The Government's contribution is 40 percent of the programme's estimated cost.

Mike Zablocki, the general manager of the Malaghan Institute, which is one of the organisations behind the programme, says the funding shows the Government recognises a "big future for human immune therapy".

"This is a growing, high tech, knowledge-intensive sector. This partnership funding will help transform our existing plans for a single phase I trial – already well underway – into a highly focused program of expanding economic opportunity for New Zealand," he said.

The organisation is partnered with China's Hunan Zhaotai Medical Group.

Other funding grants given through the 2018 Partnerships Investment Round - which focuses on long-term, innovative research with the potential of "transformative impact" - include for establishing a new gene editing platform and working with UV light to increase plant productivity and resilience.

Woods said science and innovation are "major drivers" of economic growth and international competitiveness.

Fifteen concept proposals were received for the investment round. Decisions about which programmes receive funding are made by the independent statutory Science Board.

More information about the four successful applicants can be found here.