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The grants were among $13.7million to be awarded to 23 Otago University research projects by the fund which supports investigator-initiated research.
Centre for Neuroendocrinology (CNE) member Prof Allan Herbison, of the physiology department, said that to have four members of the centre receive funding from one of the ‘‘biggest funders’’ of scientific research in New Zealand was crucial.
"The money is essential. It is not the icing on the cake, it is the cake."
Prof Herbison said his research on the impact of estrogen on the brain and fertility control would not have been possible had he not received $825,000 from the fund.
"My project would not have gone ahead; the money is essential."
About 25% of New Zealand couples were infertile, and the project would provide information which would underpin the development of new strategies to treat infertility, he said. CNE member Prof Colin Brown, of the physiology department, was awarded $825,000 for research on the retention of water by pregnant women and preventing pre-eclampsia.
The grants would benefit the labs involved with the centre, he said.
The funding not only ensured the future of the research, but enabled researchers to employ full-time staff, he said.
University of Otago deputy vice-chancellor of research and enterprise Prof Richard Blaikie praised the Otago recipients, who represent 14 departments across the university.
"Our researchers’ stellar success reflects the excellence of the proposals they have put forward for this extremely competitive fund."
A total of $65.2million was awarded, the largest funding round to be allocated in the history of the fund.
All projects run over three years and funding is spread over this period. The University of Auckland won $20.6million for 38 researchers and research projects.
University of Canterbury researchers were awarded $5.24million for eight projects and Victoria University of Wellington researchers gained 26 grants worth $14.3million.
Otago research projects ranged from how an embryo’s genome is activated to the origins of New Zealand’s pre-European musical instruments.
Other Otago grants
Dr Jennifer Cattermole, music, theatre and performing arts, $530,000; Dr Yawen Chen, computer science, $300,000; Dr Matthew Clarkson, chemistry, $300,000; Prof Greg Cook, microbiology and immunology, $825,000; Prof Mike Eccles, pathology, $825,000; Dr Anna Garden, chemistry, $300,000; Prof Neil Gemmell, anatomy, $830,000; Prof David Grattan, anatomy, $810,000; Dr Kristin Hillman, psychology, $705,000; Assoc Prof Julia Horsfield, pathology, $810,000; Dr Gabrielle Jenkin, Dean’s department Wellington, $300,000; Dr Jane McCabe, history and art history, $300,000; Dr Kourken Michaelian, philosophy, $300,000; Dr Yoshio Nakatani, microbiology and immunology, $300,000; Dr Nic Rawlence, zoology, $300,000; Prof Stephen Robertson, women’s and child health, $825,000; Prof Clive Ronson, microbiology and immunology, $750,000; Prof Hamish Spencer, zoology, $825,000; Dr Helen Taylor, anatomy, $300,000; Dr Alex Tups, physiology, $795,000; Prof James White, geology, $855,000.